How Come It’s Suddenly Less “Safe” Out There?

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New cars are – supposedly – “safer” than ever. Right? That’s what the government has been telling us.

Each new fatwa – back-up cameras, tire pressure monitors, all those air bags – forced down our throats accompanied by the ululations of the regulatory ayatollahs that they would make cars . . . safer.

But then the news. Motor vehicle fatalities are suddenly going up.

And not just a little bit, either.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety (there it is, again!) Administration, motor vehicle fatalities are up by 8 percent – and that’s for 2015, the most recent year for which complete data are available. Preliminary data for 2016 suggest an even sharper spike – possibly into the double digits.

Why?

The Usual Explanations don’t seem to cover it.

“Speeding,” for instance, is hard to blame – although it probably will be. But there’s no evidence that people, in general, are driving any faster now than they were three or four years ago. Speed limits haven’t changed much – on highways or secondary roads – since the late 1990s, when Congress finally repealed the Nixonian 55 MPH National Maximum Speed Limit.

And that was almost 20 years ago.

The “speed kills” crowd warned of a massive uptick in road deaths as a result of repealing the NMSL – but it didn’t happen. Highway fatalities actually declined even as people were allowed to drive faster.

That is, were allowed to drive as fast as they had been driving prior to the repeal.

Arguably, the roads got safer because people could pay more attention to their driving – and to the driving of others – than worrying about radar traps and being ready at any moment to slam on the brakes.

Regardless, the fact remains that repealing the NMSL – and higher posted speed limits on most of the Interstate system – did not result in a fatality uptick. Speed didn’t kill.

So it can’t be that.

How about an increase in VMT? That’s statistics-speak for Vehicle Miles Traveled – a complicated way of saying there are more cars on the road, driving more miles. Well, there probably are more cars on the road right now, today, than there were in say 2013. But not that many more. Not enough to account for the sharpest uptick in motor vehicle fatalities in 50 years.

It’s got to be something else.

But what?

Could it possibly be that government-mandated “safe” cars have become very distracting to drive? That we have passed a kind of idiot-proofing Event Horizon?

Might it be that the spike in motor vehicle fatalities is an unintended consequence of serial efforts to absolve – via technology – the driver of responsibility for paying attention to his driving?

Is it possible that encumbering cars with so much technology meant, ostensibly, to prevent accidents from happening has instead made accidents more rather than less likely – as a result of warning buzzer/light/vibrating steering wheel overload?

That makes sense.

And, it correlates.

The sudden, dramatic uptick in fatalities over the past 2-3 years coincides almost exactly with the filtering into general circulation of what are advertised as being active “safety” technologies. These differ from the ones we’re used to – like anti-lock brakes and traction control and even air bags – which are reactive technologies that step in (or do something, like explode in your face) only when the car is actually crashing or on the cusp of crashing.

The latest active technologies have taken over driving the car. For instance:

Automated active braking stops the car without the driver even touching the pedal; it might as well be a side of beef behind the wheel.

Active cruise control keeps track of the ebb and flow of traffic, slowing the car if the cars ahead slow, then resuming speed when they resume speed. The driver – yawn – doesn’t need to do a thing.

The latest systems can bring the car to a complete stop, then resume the pre-set speed, without the “driver” staring vacantly into space.

Side of beef, again.

Remember when you had to learn how to park curbside? No longer necessary. Just push a button, let the cameras, computer and servos park the car for you.

Cue drooling.

Why do they even bother with driver’s tests anymore?

Lane Departure Warning – because people can’t be expected to keep the car within the painted lines on their own. It assaults the mellowed-out meatsack behind the wheel with a constant barrage of beeps and yellow flashing lights to jar him out of his reverie and let him know – after the fact – that the car is wandering across the double yellow.

Steering Assist, which actively turns the steering wheel without any input from whomever happens to be warming the driver’s seat – and sometimes even fights the “driver” for control of the car’s direction.

Such active technologies have become available or even standard equipment in probably two thirds of all new cars, including mass-market family cars, during the past several years – exactly coinciding with the uptick in road deaths.

Maybe because people are literally asleep behind the wheel? Or at least, being put to sleep by technology?

It’s typical of the disjointed logic of government that, on the one hand, “distracted driving” is a very bad thing (and it is) while on the other hand, the government encourages just that via technologies which are specifically set up to relieve the driver of the chore of paying attention.

And which distract his attention.

A buzzing/vibrating sail fawn is bad; a distraction.

But a buzzing/vibrating steering wheel (many new cars have these – for “safety”) is ok.

Instead of learning to use their mirrors and maintain situational awareness, drivers are increasingly encouraged to rely on little yellow blinking lights built into their outside mirrors.

Of course, correlation isn’t necessarily cause – but it’s an interesting correlation.

We may be very close to a threshold moment. Either cars take over driving completely – and we all become meatsacks, just like the sides of beef along for the ride in a refrigerated truck.

Or maybe we start paying attention to driving again.

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116 COMMENTS

  1. I’ll gladly go screw off to my libertarian think tanks where actual intellectual debate is conducted, where people with ideas and plans to actually change government are, while you guys sit here jerking eachother off and accomplish nothing.

    But I did want to clarify my initial post by letting you know that I didn’t know who my audience was when I got here. I ended up here through a site aggregator and just read the article out of curiosity. My wording was clumsy, but if you read the post carefully I was talking about the OP’s problem with the TECHNOLOGY (which is primarily driven by ECONOMICS, not the government).

    OTHER technology I’m sure is contributing to accidents (texting, etc), but safety tech–which is probably on 1 or 2% of cars on the road–did NOT lead in any statistically significant way to this small rise in accidents. The author himself admits as much). I’m not necessarily advocating the government enforce these regulations on us BUT I do think you all overlook the fact that there are certain behaviors that even YOU (less you be a pure anarchist) believe should be illegal. I gave the extreme hypothetical example of: should it be legal for someone with a blindfold on to shoot randomly into a crowded street, as long as they don’t hit anyone? Some of you clearly don’t understand thought experiments or hypotheticals. But that’s not my fault.

    The willful lack of intellectual honesty and the attack-mode many of you are in is pretty sad for me to see from libertarians, honestly. Most of you here seem incapable of nuance, which is what I see from ideologues all over the rest of the political spectrum (and who dominate American politics). Ironic that you don’t realize you’re exhibiting the exact same behavior as the people you hate. I shouldn’t have even engaged after seeing the first few comments and infantile name-calling, but occasionally I get through to some people in these types of situations. Hope some of you will join me somewhere serious (like the Ron Paul Forums or CATO Institute, etc) and leave this drivel behind.

    • There are a couple of problems with your sour grapes sob story there Roger the clover. 1) We can all tell by your posts you are not a libertarian. The fact that you claim to be one, when it is so obvious you are not, basically means you are pretending to be something you are not. I find that even more offensive than an admitted far lefty. 2) You have brought nothing new, innovative or revolutionary to the discussion, just more of the same old leftist / collectivist nonsense. So do not color me surprised nobody here gave you any credibility from the get go.

      • I’m not an absolute libertarian. I’m an open-minded human who has pretty deep libertarian leanings. I’ll tell you, as a kid in college I was more of a simple-minded libertarian ideologue, but I’ve since developed my ideas on the matter and I think I have a pretty nuanced and practicable approach to libertarianism. I’m still more libertarian than anything else, but I do think there can be exceptions and I keep an open mind to everything.

        I’ve only said this to you about 10 times. Do I need to take a hammer to your head for you to get anything? You, Bill, are the only person I’ve seen here who actually has NOTHING to say. You’ve somehow managed to convince yourself that repeating the word clover clover clover clover over and over again is a valid argument, and that repeating the word clover clover clover clover over and over again “proves” that I’m a “lefty” or that repeating the word clover clover clover over again disproves any and all statistics that you find inconvenient. It’s amazing how people like you are even able to feed themselves. You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said throughout like 8 long comments, you haven’t responded to a SINGLE specific point that I’ve brought up. You are so unbelievably oblivious that it’s actually painful.

        • That’s because, as I have clearly stated, you have brought nothing, no valid arguments, no valid ideas, absolutely nothing but your tired old collectivist mantra. You think you are some kind of libertarian genius, but you are only fooling yourself, as all of the replies to your posts prove.

        • Hi Roger,

          Citing the Constitution says nothing about the moral validity of anything. I do not venerate documents. I respect moral principles.

          You are concerned about the potential and actual threat posed by motor vehicles. I don’t deny such risks are real. They are also real as regards firearms – and of a piece. Accidents happen with guns as well as with cars.

          I am willing, however, to accept that risk – that accidents as well as purposeful reckless or criminal actions may occur – in return for my liberty to be respected, to not be coerced or punished pre-emptively because someone else could not handle their liberty or abused it.

          On this score I am an absolutest. If one is not, one has ceded the principle – in which case, you’ve already lost the battle.

          • I mean, fair enough if that is truly a principle that you believe across all areas absolutely. That is known as pure anarchy and it tends to lead to feudal-type systems immediately thereafter, however.

            But I doubt that you are willing to accept all risk in all cases that may potentially “infringe” upon liberty. Fair enough if you do, I’d just like clarification: would you like for it to be legal for a blindfolded person to shoot into a crowded area, as long as he doesn’t hit anyone? Would you like it to be legal for people to dump motor oil into rivers and streams?

            If you say no, then your principle is no longer absolute and, whether or not you realize it, you are drawing an impure line at some point and that point is then up for debate. If you say yes, then you are an anarchist, and if you get your way, we’d likely end up in a feudal/gang-lord type power structure. There could be some other possibility that I’m not thinking of–I’m legitimately curious to know what your answer to that question is.

            • More non-sequiturs from the clover Roger. For someone who claims to be a libertarian, you just keep providing more proof you don’t know anything about the subject whatsoever. Both of your ridiculous scenarios violate the most basic tenants of libertarian-ism and common law, so I reject them out of hand. It is a wonder someone as oblivious as you can even dress yourself.

                • It is impossible to have an adult conversation with you because you are a befuddled immature poser who cannot make an intelligent argument. You make asinine, ridiculous comments on an libertarian website and claim to be “libertarian leaning”, whatever that is supposed to mean. Yet, all of your comments prove that you do not understand libertarians, you do not understand common law, you do not understand NAP, you do not comprehend the constitution or the concept of liberty. No wonder we have fallen so far from our founding, with people like you out there.

            • Hi Roger,

              “Anarchy” defined means absence of government – not rules. The difference is important. I have “house rules,” for example. But I have no power to force you to come to my house; and you are free to leave at any time, if the “house rules” are not to your liking.

              But government asserts ubiquitous, inescapable control. You have no right to say “no thanks.” Cannot decline the “services” it forces you to pay for.

              The objection I have is to a group of people enthroning themselves as “the government” and feigning a right to control/direct the lives of other people. None such exists, because no individual person has the right to control/direct the life of another. It follows that no group of people can have such a right, nor any individual by dint of a title or costume.

              And, no – I would not “..like for it to be legal for a blindfolded person to shoot into a crowded area, as long as he doesn’t hit anyone?”

              I dissected that non sequitur already.

              You confuse a potential risk (attends almost every human action) with a deliberate intent to threaten harm – which is what shooting a loaded gun in the direction of people is by definition whereas driving a car involves no such intent; indeed, it involves the opposite – because people are trying to avoid causing harm, to themselves and to others.

              And they ask my why I drink…

                • Morning, Bill!

                  Yup… I mean, I’m okay with him espousing what amounts to the conservative/limited government viewpoint; it’s entirely his right. What drives me to the bottle is when a conservative/limited government type claims Libertarian status and then faults us for being dogmatic/absolutist because we actually base our particular views on the principles of non-aggression, holding individuals only accountable for the actual harms they cause (not for harms caused by others; not because “someone” might cause harm), etc.

                  • Morning Eric, Happy Friday! Yes, it is maddening that people like Roger simply cannot grasp the most basic of concepts. If they cannot grasp the baby steps, no wonder the big picture is completely beyond their comprehension.

            • you forget about the core and first principal of libertarians.. DO NO HARM. While you MAY (a vanishingly small likelihood) manage to pull off firing a few rounds into a crowd whilst blinkered and not hit anyone,. the odds are far too great for this to be acceptible behaviour. Pouring used sump oil into a stream is always wrong…. it causes immediate harm.
              I know quite a few individuals who drive, a lot. ALL of them eschew the new government mandated stupid toys, as backup cameras, auto-braking, takeover steering. etc. Personally I refuse to drive any vehicle that refuses to allow ME to drive. Two million plus miles behind the wheel and no crashes, ever, been near thirty years since my last moving violation…. and I all but NEVER drove under the posted maximum back in the wretched days of the Double Nickel Shuffle, most times I was thirty over that stupid number. I drove far safer, as at that speed there was enough to keep me alert. At fifty five, I tended to doze… not to mention taking hours longer for a trip of any length.

              I’ve ridden with folks who have all the new gadgets, gew gaws, etc… they pay so much attention to the flashing warning lamps, buzzers, spoken plastic “voices”, their driving is far more dangrous than the guy motoring along at the speed limit in light traffic chatting on his cell phone. Those toys demand attention…. and some folk have so little of that they oughtn’t be even driving. Like the chap had his head off as he was blasting along behind the wheel of his Tesla Self Driver, and buried himself under the deck of the large trailer of the articulated lorry pulled in front of his soon to be scrapmetal Tesla. His “toys” literally caused his death.

    • Hi Roger,

      I think you miss the point… Libertarians by definition aren’t interested in changing government; they want government to leave them alone.

      The technology at issue is being driven by debt financing and conditioning of the public to a state of dumbed-down passivity; of acceptance of control by others (that is, by the government/corporations).

      You write:

      “I gave the extreme hypothetical example of: should it be legal for someone with a blindfold on to shoot randomly into a crowded street, as long as they don’t hit anyone?”

      This is a a non sequitur, easily dismissed.

      A person who points a deadly weapon at any other person by definition intends to do them harm. Merely driving a car is not even remotely in the same category, since the act of driving the car – as such – in no way intends harm.

      Your “thought experiment” would be better if you posited a blindfolded driver… in which case we’d have something analogous to a blindfolded guy firing a gun randomly into a crowded street.

      The reason you’ve been called a Clover is due to the fact that you appear to believe government (control/coercion) is ok to the extent you’re comfortable with, for reasons you believe are warranted.

      I take the Libertarian position – which is that no one has the right to ever threaten or actually use force against another person for any reason at all except in self-defense.

      You will reply, no doubt, that that’s just what you mean. You are merely defending yourself against the “threat” and “risk” presented by cars.

      See above in re the difference between pointing and firing a weapon into a crowd and merely driving a car.

      A Clover can’t discern the difference.

      • The difference between my “thought experiment” and driving a car is one of DEGREE, not of KIND. You’ve now invoked “intention” into your “absolute principle”. Your principle is no longer absolute. Now we need to deduce what people’s intention is when they harm someone and whether or not they are intending to do harm even if they don’t.

        This leads to all types of complicated questions. WHEN is “intention” legally allowed to be determined? You suggested earlier that it can only be determined AFTER harm has occurred. This doesn’t hold up though with your incorporating “intention” into the matter because in the blindfolded man example (assuming the man never actually hits anyone), he has done no harm.

        If it’s fair to say that he “intended” harm, even though he didn’t actually harm anyone, then at WHAT point can we make that determination? When he lifts the gun? When he fires? If someone overhears him talking about it the day before?

        When does poisoning a water source through negligence (vs. intent) cross the line? At what point is ignorance a plausible defense when harming someone? It may seem self-evident when the degree is so drastic (ie, between the blindfolded person and the person driving a car), but being an extreme example, it can expose fundamental problems in the logic behind it.

        What I’m saying is that I think you have a mistaken belief that it’s possible to be absolute on this matter. In your “absolute principle” what entity/entities are responsible for punishing/preventing/deterring people from committing harm on others? How do you prevent society from falling into a feudal system? When society does inevitably fall apart, and things like resource scarcity become a problem again and people need to compete for said resources, at what point is it “okay” to harm someone? If my child is starving? If I think there’s a 40% I’ll be deprived of some standard of liberty? Deprived of my life? 50%? 60%?

        Whether or not you know it, you are drawing a somewhat arbitrary line at some point. I’m not saying that enforcing car safety standards is where that line should be drawn, but it’s somewhere. Even if your principle WERE absolute, and you achieved it, you wouldn’t actually be maximizing individual liberty. You’d simply be creating a vicious animalistic world in which people NEED to dominate/harm/kill others just to survive. If there is a sweet spot to maximize liberty, it includes making reasonable (though minimal) distinctions, including a certain degree of stability.

        • Hi Roger,

          We’re in disagreement about over there being an equivalence between driving a car and firing (or even pointing) a loaded gun in a direction where people could be hit. You see these as being of a piece. I see them as very different. Pointing a gun at someone does not require parsing intent. The intent is clear by definition. There is no legitimate reason to point a loaded gun – much less fire it – in the direction of people. There is a legitimate reason to drive. And driving – as such – is an activity the intention of which is presumptively to avoid harm – unless you take the position that the driver is homicidal or suicidal. Some, perhaps, may be. But most are not. Most intend to avoid harming themselves or others.

          The loaded gun person is being deliberately reckless, if not homicidal – because he is pointing/firing a gun at people or in their direction.

  2. There is a tremendous moral hazard in these features, especially for drivers that haven’t developed safe driving habits. I recently read a Consumer Reports article that claimed that a teenage driver ought to have the newest car with the most of these ‘active safety features,’ and all I could think about was how insane it would be to give a brand new car to a 16 year old, hormone fueled kid and say, in a nutshell, “Don’t worry, kid. It’s basically impossible to kill yourself in this car, so have fun!” My high school car (in the late ’90s-early ‘oughts) was a 1947 Willys CJ-2A. I knew that it would roll if I cornered too hard. It had seatbelts only because I installed them. I drove 90% of the time with the windshield down. It has no power-assist brakes, no power steering, and a vacuum-operated wiper that only sort-of works. And since I knew the damned thing could kill me at any time, I developed safe driving habits that carry over into today. One notable exception was when I was trying to impress a girl by tailgating her friend’s ’68 Galaxie. We tapped bumpers, but neither car was hurt. Girl wasn’t impressed either…

  3. i think texting or not paying attention is the problem. Cars are just too easy to drive.

    I finally watched bullitt this week, what a great movie. The cars are amazing, loud and in your face. You had to pay attention.

    Couple new cars with cheap insurance and you get inattentive drivers. If accidents cost you more money or you would not be able to get insurance people might pay attention. If the cars were more loud and raw it would require attention.

    You can’t dictate that though. You could not require everyone have insurance. You could not mandate anything on a car. Let chevy reproduce the 1968 camaro. They can make the brakes better and maybe upgrade some things to modern spec, but keep the base car the same. let them make it loud and cheap. End what ever lending deals they have that keeps interest rates at zero.

    End all speed limits. maybe if everyone drove FASTER they would pay more attention.

    • So true, Todd!

      I remember a few years ago, test-driving a ’68 Chevy pick’up with drum brakes all around. My first such experience driving an all-drum vehicle. I learned quickly that one had to drive such a vehicle differently than they do disc/drum or all-wheel-disc vehicles. I know if i had bought that truck, I would have ended up having an accident sooner or later- if for no other reason than the way others drive, which often forces you to hit the brakes kinda hard and come to a quick stop- so I didn’t buy it.

      Modern braking is touted as “safer”- and no doubt, it is, but since we can stop quicker now, we drive faster and follow closer, because we have that ability, so any advantage of the modern brakes are pretty much negated- and so it goes with all of this other safety crap.

      • My daily driver is a big one ton van. Disc drum brakes, and four wheel antilock. That system finally died, and in some way where it simply no longer deploys. Which suits me fine….. the ONLY two times I’ve come near crashing that van were when the ABS kicked in when stopping for a signal light on rough road…. raining like mad. Front end began to skid, I began to feather, the ssytem took over and I had NO BRAKES for several near-eternal seconds. I removed my foot from the anchor pedal, let the stupid ABS go to sleep again, and was able to modulate the brakes using just enough force to stop partially into the intersection, but not far enough to get hit.

        When that warning lamp came on, and I tested the brakes and found ABS non-functional, I was VERY happy. I had planned to try and figure out a way to disable that stupidity. Two million miles in everything from a Honda Fifty to a Kenworth Conventional tandem drive tractor and a 45 foot dry van, nary a crash.

        Thanks all the same, you can KEEP all the toys.

    • I like that idea, though, I demand better handling, so on would go thicker sway bars, maybe some better springs and shocks, and maybe a little sound dampening.

  4. I have to weigh in on the smart phone users being the greatest threat to road safety. Sometimes I ride a bicycle and I learned to stay on the left side of the road or the pullover because I can watch the oncoming driver through the windshield. Half are texting, e-mailing or, I suppose, watching videos. When I see one of these drivers I plan an escape off the road, and possibly into a ditch if/when they start to swerve. A few bones might be broken but a collision with a car is likely to kill me. The state of Maryland forbids the use of phones and devices while driving but when I’ve driven there I see that half the drivers are texting away as they drive. I don’t think there is a solution. People love their smart phones. Maybe the nanny state could force all cars to have some technology that blocks cell phone signals when a car is moving.

    Police have chastised me for biking on the left side of the road. I politely say “yes sir” and “I didn’t know bikers are supposed to ride on the right side”. So far I have only received warnings and no ticket. As soon as the officer is out of sight I’m on the left side.

    • Hi Patrick,

      In some cases, yes.

      My gripe is with package-dealing.

      Some people can multi-task and still drive more competently than others who aren’t multi-tasking. Just as some people are still better drivers even after a few drinks than some people are sober.

      Americans have been conditioned to think in terms of collectives – and to beg for collective (and coercive) solutions to pretty much everything.

    • Wrong way bicycling is less safe. People are not looking for things coming at them on the same side of the road and sightlines are not set up for it. And that’s before the problems at intersections.

      • Yes! Salmoning (riding the wrong way/wrong side of road) is about the most dangerous thing you can do a bicycle. Even a driver paying perfect attention will hit you sooner or later as he is pulling out of a side street making a right, or making a right off of the road you are on (I almost did that myself once!).

        Patrick should just get a mirror. You can often tell just by the action of the car itself, without even seeing the driver, who is texting or not paying attention/going to be a problem.

    • A VERY avid road bike guy, somewhere between 150 and 200 K road miles….. that’s a few. Typically between 3000 and 5000 per year, and I avoid the stupid bike paths.

      Why? Consider the closing speed…… when I’m doing 20, the car is doing fifty, we have a closing speed of thirty when going the same direction… SEVENTY when opposite. HE, and I, have less than half the time to see, identify, and respond to each other when opposing. And surviing a thirty mile an hour crash is fairly likely…. surving a SEVENTY mile an hour crash is all but impossible.

      Further, when I am doing my 20 or 25, and some clown like YOU are doing the same opposing ME, and we both have to share what little space is there, WHO goes WHERE? Most wrong way jerks want ME to get out there and eat the traffic. THEY never want to, and THEY are in the wrong. Nearly every state has laws requiring cycles to ride WITH the traffic.. with good reason.

      In high school I saw a kid get killed BECAUSE he was on the wrong side of the street. The closing speed scenario above is why.. driver could not see him in time, he had nowhere to go because of a parked car, did an endover onto the macadam, and splatted his brains out.

      RIDE ON THE RIGhT. Someday you’re going to HURT someone… and if that is ME, there WILL be a huge lawsuit, as YOU will be fully responsible. Don’t be STUPID.

  5. So let’s see:

    Uncle’s program to combat teen pregnancy, started 50 years ago, has resulted in an exponential rise of teen pregnancies and single-parent households.

    Uncle’s programs to illiminate “poverty” have resulted in multigenerational welfare families, and the decimation of the formerly not-poor middle-class.

    Uncle’s programs to reduce illiteracy have resulted in half the population being barely able to read and comprehend at a 4th-grade level.

    Etc. etc.

    So of course, what do Uncle’s programs to reduce traffic fatalities and make the roads safer do? Hmmmm, big surprise there!

    So it’s bad enough that Uncle has abrogated to itself the rights not given to it by the Constitution to foist all such things upon us, and make us pay for them; but the fact that we have no choice in the matter, and that they accomplish the very opposite of their stated purposes, is ludicrous!

    One has to wonder if such is by design, or just incompetence. Probably a [un]healthy mix of both.

    And let us not forget Uncle’s programs to spread “democracy” and “peace” around the world! How has that worked out?!

    • Spot-on, Nunzio. Of course the core problem with roads is that they are not owned by private entities and operated for profit; therefore they don’t have to satisfy the preferences of consumers to stay “in business.” As long as government is in charge of the roads, we’ll never know what solutions entrepreneurs would come up with to problems like safety, congestion, etc.

    • Nunzio, a couple years ago a DOT vermin had me stopped for revenue collection and told me truck wrecks had increased
      I asked why that was. He said he didn’t know. I made a point to look at I 20 right beside us where the traffic was almost all trucks nearly bumper to bumper and cars driving willy-nilly in that 75mph cluster fuck. Surely some genius bureaucrat could eventually figure the road was simply overloaded. Truckers were certainly aware of it.

    • Funny thing too, when you try to have a discussion with these socialists [i.e. the average American today], they quickly make it clear that they don’t care how unconstitutional any given gov’t action is, or that it destroys one’s personal freedom/ability to choose/self-determination etc.

      They hop right on the “saaaafety” bandwagon, or the “humanitarian” bandwagon, etc. (As if letting people be free to make their own choices and take their own actions and live with their own level of risk, is somehow inhuman….)- But then when you prove how virtually NONE of their freedom-destroying social-engineering “programs” have ever accomplished their stated intent, they don’t care about that either.

      Makes ya wonder, what DO they care about? (Just political ideology and control, I guess. The “saaafety” and humanitarian [ad infinitum] BS are obviously just the window-dressing to make themselves look good.)

    • Just a personal observation. Using a gizmo while driving is just like any other behavior, an individual choice which must be exercised with judgement. In the big city, texting and driving is usually (but not necessarily) a really bad idea, but people do it anyway because of having to spend too much time in their cars due to absurd speed limits and centrally planned road systems.

      I routinely surf and text while driving. Because my driving is on 95% empty, flat, open, wide shallow ditch roads in the middle of god’s nowhere. (Western MN/eastern ND/northern SD). Since the pork lobby has successfully kept speed limits at 55, 60, or less out here it becomes necessary to multitask to keep the mind functioning and the business productive. As always, communism (I think that’s a synonym for cloverism…) kills. If nothing else by stealing life.

  6. I like the blind spot monitoring. I treat it like a second pair of eyes. I still do my normal thing as usual. I like passive alerts. When it takes control of my vehicle that is where I draw the line.

    I sadly think the self driving car is inevitable. It is a result of our overlitigious society. Everything has to be 100% safe! People sue if they trip over a crack in the sidewalk. Or break their leg on a hiking trail. Accidents happen.

  7. I do agree there is a lot of distractions these days. Some of the systems in cars now are way to complex. There are, however, technologies, including Automatic Braking which have saved lives. There have been plenty of documented events where it saved lives. There are times where the car computer can apply those brakes in an emergency situation that the human driver can’t react to quick enough. I think biggest problem is idiots that text and drive. I also think that talking on the phone while driving is also a very bad idea. When driving, one should be focused on that. What the hell do people have to talk or text on the phone that is so important that they place their lives, as well as other people’s lives at risk on the road???

    • I agree. I am an offender and am trying to stop that crap, however, I don’t believe that new laws are necessary. People need to be educated with hard facts about its real dangers to some. I despise automatic braking systems in cars. I don’t believe for a minute that they will prevent that many rear end accidents. Many rear end accidents are caused by changes that are beyond the reaction time of humans and even machines. That’s why they are called accidents.

    • If one is driving responsibly, keeping safe following distances, paying attention, auto braking will NEVER be needed, and can be a HUIGE threat to safety. Some jerk cuts in front of me at 70 with half a length between us, I don’t want the brakes to suddenly slam on MY vehicle, particularly if there is another jerk trying to figure out what size trailer hitch ball I have in the receiver back there. HE wil hit me from behind when the idiot machine thinks its the hero for preventing ME hitting the clown in front. No thanks…. if I ever am FORCED to get a car with that insanity, I WILL figure out how to disable it.

  8. Here’s the situation in Australia. Road deaths on a decline for decades. 4 years ago all police departments waged war on drivers going over the speed limit by less than 10 km/hr. Then the 100 mph country roads went down to 80. Then the crackdown on mobile phone users. So now in the last 3 years, all states have registered double digit % increases in the road toll for each of those 3 years. 75% of all drivers in Australia have received an infringement notice in the last 3 years. 99% of those infringements were for less than 10 km over the limit. Yet the pollies just offer more and harsher crackdowns on the safest motorists. Now when I see motorists driving 80 on these rural roads, they are swerving all over the place. I pass them as quickly as I can coz I don’t want to follow them. Almost always they are on their phones. With the high limits, you can’t drive and be on the phone.
    I won’t go into all the details of how redflex, I call them redfucks, have fucked up our civil rights, not just in Oz, but those cunts are all over the USA. Note Chicago. How people can work for them without losing their soul and principals and ethics is beyond me.
    So yes, the road authorities, politicians, and police here are just as fucked up as the police in North Korea. At least Kim Il Dick doesn’t lie to his slaves like our western scummy dictators do.

  9. Hectoring or not, I for one will be very happy when self-driving cars are upon us. There is no end to the stupidity I witness on the road nearly every time I drive my car. Distracted driving is probably the single biggest cause, but thoughtlessness and outright rude behavior are in the mix. I have been driving for nearly 50 years. At no time in the past have I witnessed as many drivers failing to use their turn signals, failing to dim their high beams when traffic is approaching, or failing to yield the right of way even when signs are posted. Yes, I’ll entrust my safety to a computer, as soon as self-driving cars are commonplace. Can’t happen soon enough.

    • Hi Gordon,

      You know what this will be like, though… right?

      It’ll be like everything else that happens when you hand over to the government (and corporations, which are the flip side of government) control over anything.

      Example: People can’t be trusted with guns! The government will keep us safe…

      Example 2: Well… do I I really need to go there?

      • eric I was reminded Tuesday how a self driving car could never have delivered me to a location I had to find. A field office inside a college building and could only be found via directions given over the phone and even at that the building only had half of it open. I had to ask directions even when parked nearby.

  10. Eric, how can you ignore the “real” (or at least, the main) cause for increased fatalities just to score a political point??

    The obvious cause is that drivers must take their eyes of the road in order to punch a digital screen every time they want to operate a secondary control.

  11. Hi Eric,

    I’m very skeptical of your thesis. Is your data on 2/3 of the cars having this stuff even correct? Maybe that’s for 2017 cars just coming on the road—which would be a tiny minority of the cars on the road. I think it’s a pretty small number of people driving cars with all the gadgets.

    Your line about staying within the lines really caught my eye. And because of that, your article almost suggests the unthinkable—that you’re not driving much. I say that simply because

    1. I see people wander into neighboring lanes *every day*. I’ve almost been hit a dozen times. (And of course, use your horn and get the finger.)

    2. This is not because of gadgets per se. The source of this problem is so obvious, I can’t imagine why you didn’t see it/mention it.

    3. It’s texting and talking on cell phones. Every day—wandering 1 or 2 (or 3) feet over the line—repeatedly. Just look at them—every time—every stinking time—with a cell phone in one hand, head down, texting or talking. They’ll wander across the line, correct…then wander again in another 50 yards. Rinse and repeat. I know this because I drive around out there. There was not this much inability to maintain a lane three years ago.

    4. I’ve also been rear ended making a left turn. Bam! Looked in the rearview, and there was the idiot holding his phone up to his ear.

    So, yes, technology is definitely the problem, but not likely as you suggest.

    Though obviously you have a point with the rear visibility. And honestly, I don’t know about the bells and whistles. I’m driving a 2015 (Passat TDI, manual—all envy accepted), which I think of as a pretty new car. It has pretty terrible visibility all the way around, but probably not much worse than a ’73 Roadrunner. The touchscreen radio is something I’d prefer not to have. I can ignore the backup camera. Anyway, you left yourself open when you left out cell phone usage.

    JD

  12. I got a new Audi a year ago with a lot of gadgets. I don’t use them in tight traffic situations.

    It didn’t take long for the automatic brakes to lock when they shouldn’t and for the side mirror assist to fail to warn me of cars in my blind spot. I don’t depend on them. I can see where they might lull young drivers into a false sense of security. Of course, I’ve been driving since 1960. I have over a million miles driving experience.

    When I first started driving, I got into the habit of mentally rehearsing emergency scenarios when they came to mind. Some maneuvers I practiced off road where I had a lot of space. Once one happens, there is no time to think. It has be be reactive. There is also the matter of thinking ahead and not putting myself in dangerous situations. Third, I make sure to leave enough space to allow for error. These are habits that saved me from many accidents.

    Point being: I think that the dumbing down process that began in the late sixties in government schools is having effects beyond academic subjects like politics, history and geography. Driving takes an active mind. Graduates are trained not to think.

    I’d be interested in accidents broken down by the age of the car and driver. It would tell us if the increase in accidents has more to do with driver than car. Young driver and old car are more at risk than old driver and new car.

  13. As a person who has been operating a computer for a living for at least 25 years, I must ask you. Would YOU trust your life to a computer? Then you have never operated a PC and seen the “blue screen of death”; and even Mac’s, though much more stable than the average PC, can still stall, slow down, or even give up the ghost completely. I think that I will continue to drive the newest “old” car that I can find/afford.

  14. Hectoring is what drivers are being exposed to, constant hectoring, over and over and over again. It is getting worse and worse and worse. Next your refrigerator will start bothering you, then your household air-conditioning system, then your computer and on and on it will go. Ninny nannying hectoring demands for compliance all day long, every single day. This is what the “internet of things” is going to be like.

    “Turn out the lights you are wasting electricity.”

    “You have purchased unhealthy food. Buy what was recommended on that email from your healthcare provider or else it will be made mandatory for you and, by the way, make sure you close the fridge door, you took too long staring into the fridge last time and that wasted precious energy.”

    “You have set the temperature too low. For environmental reasons you ought to choose a different selection for the HVAC today.”

    “You visit too many alternative web-sites which are not approved. This could be risky. Best choose from this list of recommendations….. specially provided for you.”

    Hectoring demands, recommendations and soon orders (all for your own good). The hectoring in new cars is merely the entre. Go get used to it. It is to condition you for what is coming.

    Hectoring. Then lecturing.

    Comply you commoners. Comply!

    Sione

    • You nailed, Sione…

      I reached my critical mass – my capacity to tolerate it – some time ago. I literally stopped watching TV because of the pushy hectoring; one commercial in particular almost drove me to blast the TV, Elvis-style, with my Sig .45

      It was one of those heaf cayuh commercials from a shyster insurance mafiosi… intoning “it’s the law” ….

    • Try working for a major corporation. I’m trapped. I can’t avoid the constant nannying unless I quit.
      It’s like being in grade school all over again.

      Being subject to monthly lecturers by the corporate safety nanny. I almost laughed out loud when she advised we leave four seconds between the car in front. Maybe that’s why I see so many cars leave a hundred or more yards gap.

      • Hi Spirit,

        I have been out of that world for almost 20 years now… I could never go back… I’d live in a tent first… I just can’t handle it. You have my sympathy…

  15. Similar problem with commercial airline pilots – let the computer fly the plane or the pilot? Fatal crashes have occurred through confusion.

  16. The introduction of LEDs in headlights, taillights and traffic lights has made driving after dark shockingly dangerous.

    Light shining off a pedestrian or any object is barely noticeable next to the lights of oncoming vehicles, and the glare at the right angle is just as bad as a laser pointer.

    It is a federal offense to shine a laser pointer at a plane, yet automakers and signal manufacturers are allowed, even encouraged or required, to shine LEDs at our cars, thanks to Obama’s energy efficiency legislation prohibiting the manufacture of older style bulbs.

    Making matters worse is the manufacturers insistance on increasing the lumens emitted with each generation of new lights to make theirs shine brightest. This is a vicious cycle our legislators need to stop.

    The brightness of headlights, taillights and traffic lights needs to be limited, the use of LEDs on the road must be curtailed, and damages for accidents where visibility is a contributing factor must be shared by the manufacturers, municipalities, and oncoming drivers who provided, installed, and shined the LEDs into the crashing driver’s eyes in the first place.

    • Good observation on the LEDs. I would guess that the bright lights are making a difference…especially the ones on the tops of the cars of the pirates—which are by far the brightest and most dangerous of all.

      I hope you can come to the point where you stop looking for “legislators” (i.e., evil cowardly thugs operating under the illusion of legitimacy) to help you. They are not interested in helping you, nor or they going to help you any more than than a cattle farmer is going to help his cattle. In any case, your plea for legislation will not meet with much sympathy among those of us who reject that idea that we are livestock to be managed.

  17. There’s a difference between new technology having flaws and technology being inherently flawed. I understand your notion of not necessarily wanting the government to dictate these kinds of safety rules, but you have to keep in mind that over THIRTY-THOUSAND people die every year in auto accidents in the US. Safety measures have brought that number down from over 50,000 in the 70s, even while the number of miles driven per year has TRIPLED.

    ONE anomalous year does not a trend make. And I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind thinking that taking control of 2 ton projectiles flying around roads and neighborhoods everywhere AWAY from error-prone and increasingly distracted (by other tech: texting, etc) humans is a bad idea.

    Do you consider yourself a “meatbag” every time you use a phone because you’re not hand-delivering your messages? Car automation is inevitable, and these safety features are doing much more good than harm.

    Also, I think you and I both know that it’s not being pushed solely by the government either. This kind of technology is commercially viable and in demand by customers. People want to be safe; people want their kids and their family to be safe. I understand the technology isn’t perfect yet–but it’s short-sighted to assume it won’t become perfect in the very near future.

    I’m sympathetic to the notion that safety features might sometimes give people a false sense of security, but that’s, at worst, a slight bump in the road on our way to DRAMATICALLY increasing the safety of being in a vehicle. It’s of course, ludicrous to attribute a slight uptick in traffic deaths (it’s actually not too anomalous if you compare the number of miles driven to the number of deaths) when it’s likely random and at most, a product of OTHER distractions.

    The point of driving is to get from A to B. I know some/most people enjoy driving themselves, but it’s not worth tens of thousands of lives (and OVER A MILLION worldwide) each year.

      • Good well thought out reply man. Really gives credence to your argument.

        I really shouldn’t have to say this in an adult conversation, because my political leanings are obviously completely irrelevant to making a logical argument–but I’m very much libertarian-leaning. You can see in my first paragraph that I said that I sympathize with the fact that there are problems with the government enforcing certain standards. I’m also not an absolutist.

        But. That’s not even what this article was about. There were a couple throwaway complaints about government, but the issue was basically sidestepped in favor of luddite complaining. If that WERE the subject of the article, I’d have considered the nuanced pros and cons of national safety regulations. But it wasn’t.

        Either way, grow the heck up.

        • Your post was nothing but a collectivist screed. It is so typical of a clover who “feels” his concerns about safe-tttttttty are so morally superior to everyone else that it gives you the right to force your beliefs down everyone’s throat at gun point. You are not a libertarian, you do not even slightly lean that way. If I replace the word “cars” in this article with “guns”, you actually come across as an anti-gun far left radical.

          My assessment was correct and you should really take your own advice.

          • First of all, driving a car is not a constitutional right. See my below response to Eric, hopefully that clears some things up. But seriously, the name calling does you absolutely no favors. It’s just infantile and prevents people from taking you seriously. You sound exactly like the “lefties” or whatever the hell over-simplified BS name that you despise so much.

            Even as a libertarian, you’re not an anarchist. You believe there is a certain amount of acceptable risk and a certain amount of unacceptable risk. I give the example below of: should a man be allowed to walk blindfolded around a city street with a big knife in his hand while making violent stabbing motions? I don’t think you would be okay with that. So there IS a limit.

            I don’t know exactly where that line should be, but I tend toward libertarian. Again, I’m not an absolutist though. The point of my initial comment was to at least point out some stats to provide context for the extraordinarily misleading stats mentioned in the article. Meant to provide evidence to complain for the inherent evil of “the kids and their technology these days, dangnabit” (eyeroll), and VERY briefly complain about the government. Manipulative statistics are not okay in honest journalism, no matter your political leanings. Have some standards, man.

            BTW, the safety standards have saved several MILLION American lives since the 70s. This isn’t the same as the “threat” of terrorism, which kills like 6 people a year. It’s a big deal.

            I’m open to arguments about inherent problems with government enforcing these types of regulations. But–again–that wasn’t the subject of the article, so that’s not what I discussed.

            Either way though, I consider myself a skeptic, so I like to question EVERYTHING, including myself and my own belief system. You should try it sometime. It’s the only way to find out truth. If you just want to go out and root for Team Libertarian your whole life name-calling like a pre-teen and never questioning anything, I guess go right ahead and get your tribal instincts out, but then you are EXACTLY like everyone else. People who are 100% sure of themselves are simpletons and fools.

            • Cars got a lot safer between the date of invention and the day the federal government copied all the standards from SAE and took over too.

              But government likes to lie and does so by only showing what happened since they took over. It also claims the last few decades of improvements of which many were market driven. Even the mandates of recent years were market based ideas that were decided had to be forced on all new car buyers instead of just those that wanted them and were willing to pay for them.

            • Driving is not a constitutional right, I’ll give you that one on the technicality. It is, however a natural right. I own the car and I’m a part owner of the road. I’d rather that ownership were private and honest, but as it is I’ve been mulcted repeatedly for its use, I own my piece of it. Legitimate government is granted the privilege of regulating it within the public sphere, and a driver’s license is only a statement of minimal competence, not a grant of privilege. Not sure quite how they granted themselves the privilege of requiring the use of seat belts.

              • I’m more inclined to agree with you about seat belts since the consequences fall almost exclusively on the person who fails to where the seat belt.
                Clover
                But I think there’s an argument to be made that the number 1 killer of Americans aged 1-44 be addressed in some fashion, especially when over half of those killed are not at fault (either being a passenger, harmed by someone else’s negligence, or being in an unavoidable freak accident).

                Mostly i’m taking issue with the lack of seriousness and deliberate misleading that takes place in this article. I still believe that libertarian-leaning people tend to be more critical thinking than people of many other ideologies, but articles like this and fawning comments like (most of) the ones below make me severely question that belief.

                • Roger,

                  You write:

                  “But I think there’s an argument to be made that the number 1 killer of Americans aged 1-44 be addressed in some fashion..”

                  When you say “addressed in some fashion,” it sure sounds as though you’re saying you want it imposed on everyone.

                  That is not a very Libertarian point of view.

                  How about you “address” this issue as regards yourself, as you deem appropriate – and leave me and others free to do the same?

                  Your argument is essentially the same as the one espoused by those who demand guns be forbidden. They kill! Look at all the deaths!

                  In other words, because some people abuse firearms, everyone must be denied them.

                  Some people can’t drive competently; therefore, all must be presumed incompetent and have idiot-proofing imposed upon them.

                  Heart disease is the “number one killer” of Americans aged x to x… should people be forced to lose weight, eat better and exercise?

                  Risk exists. But limiting liberty on the basis of risk won’t eliminate risk, but it will assure the loss of liberty.

                  I’d rather risk – than give up liberty. Especially for the sake of a Clover’s worrying about my “safety.”

                  • Again, there is no constitutional right guaranteeing you the ability to drive around a two ton machine that (no matter how careful and responsible and law abiding you are) WILL definitely kill many innocent people. When I say “there is an argument to be made”, I mean that i’m not necessarily convinced one way or the other at this point. [I’m playing devil’s advocate to a certain extent to see where holes in both sides of the argument lie. Like I’ve said a bunch of times now–what I initially took issue with was the article complaining about and misleading nature concerning the safety mechanisms themselves.]Clover

                    The same inevitability can’t really be said of guns. There are a few freak accidents, but if you are ACTUALLY responsible with a gun it’s actually pretty difficult to kill anyone accidentally. Even if it wasn’t, there is no viable alternative to a gun and what I think is the primary purpose of their legality: as a deterrent to government power (plus there’s the whole 2nd ammendment thing).

                    As far as heart disease/crap food goes, that’s a simple case of having 0% risk of affecting anyone but themselves. Trust me, I’m not worried about the safety of people who drive like a-holes on the road, I’m worried about the innocent people that those a-holes inevitably kill every single year. Again, since the regulations have been implemented, MILLIONS of Americans have been saved by safety mechanisms.

                    Then there is your argument about not being held responsible until something “actually happens”. By that reasoning you would be okay with my scenario (a blindfolded man shooting randomly in a crowded city street, provided he never hits anyone). That should be legal in your book? I think what you are describing is anarchy, not libertarianism my friend. What about, should it be legal to dump motor oil in our rivers? Clover

                    I understand the urge to be absolutist when it comes to government control, because their priorities are clearly so backward and inefficient, and maybe the only solution is to somehow start over, but even if we did, we are social animals and–just as it has happened in every other human occupied locale–social and governmental and other power structures would spring up quickly again.

                    In order to be effective in any way, I’d say people such as the ones who frequent this site, need to stop reflexively bashing people who may disagree with them slightly, learn to prioritize, and learn to differentiate between legitimate political arguments and deliberately misleading unfocused blathering such as the “info” featured in this article.

                    • Eric, I actually didn’t realize you were the author until just now. Apologies, I would have been more constructive in my criticism if I knew. I appreciate you going back and forth with me on this. I’m sure you were just trying to get out some frustration. I only have issues with the article itself, not you.

          • Typed this up on mobile, didn’t realize how scrunched up it was on the website so:

            Again, there is no constitutional right guaranteeing you the ability to drive around a two ton machine that (no matter how careful and responsible and law abiding you are) WILL definitely kill many innocent people. When I say “there is an argument to be made”, I mean that i’m not necessarily convinced one way or the other at this point. [I’m playing devil’s advocate to a certain extent to see where holes in both sides of the argument lie. Like I’ve said a bunch of times now–what I initially took issue with was the article complaining about and misleading nature concerning the safety mechanisms themselves.]Clover

            The same inevitability can’t really be said of guns. There are a few freak accidents, but if you are ACTUALLY responsible with a gun it’s actually pretty difficult to kill anyone accidentally. Even if it wasn’t, there is no viable alternative to a gun and what I think is the primary purpose of their legality: as a deterrent to government power (plus there’s the whole 2nd ammendment thing).

            As far as heart disease/crap food goes, that’s a simple case of having 0% risk of affecting anyone but themselves. Trust me, I’m not worried about the safety of people who drive like a-holes on the road, I’m worried about the innocent people that those a-holes inevitably kill every single year. Again, since the regulations have been implemented, MILLIONS of Americans have been saved by safety mechanisms.Clover

            Then there is your argument about not being held responsible until something “actually happens”. By that reasoning you would be okay with my scenario (a blindfolded man shooting randomly in a crowded city street, provided he never hits anyone). That should be legal in your book? I think what you are describing is anarchy, not libertarianism my friend. What about, should it be legal to dump motor oil in our rivers? Clover

            I understand the urge to be absolutist when it comes to government control, because their priorities are clearly so backward and inefficient, and maybe the only solution is to somehow start over, but even if we did, we are social animals and–just as it has happened in every other human occupied locale–social and governmental and other power structures would spring up quickly again.

            In order to be effective in any way, I’d say people such as the ones who frequent this site, need to stop reflexively bashing people who may disagree with them slightly, learn to prioritize, and learn to differentiate between legitimate political arguments and deliberately misleading unfocused blathering such as the “info” featured in this article.

            • It’s been an accepted human right to use the public way for personal transportation for thousands of years. That did not change because of the motorcar although some have used the adoption of the motorcar to convince people they no longer have a right to travel on the public way with the typical conveyance of the time. This of course has often been expanded upon to demand those who use other conveyances or even their feet be treated in a similar manner as motorists.

              Furthermore because it is not enumerated in the USC does not mean it does not exist. This is clearly addressed in the BoR.

              The state used the adoption of the motorcar to increase its power. To gain a power states were never able to claim before, the power to license use of the public way for personal purposes. To create the perception that what was a right is now a privilege granted by the state.

        • Hi Roger,

          The core issue here is whether it’s legitimate for there to be any “national safety regulations.”

          Why is my safety anyone else’s proper business? And how is “safety” defined? It’s an inherently subjective thing. The ’73 Beetle I drove around after college was certainly “unsafe” as measured by current government standards – but the car never harmed me or anyone else. I valued its cheapness, simplicity and fuel economy. Why should my values take a back seat to someone else’s – given it’s my money and my life that’s “at risk”?

          Might I have been harmed, if I’d wrecked? Possibly… but observe that these are “what ifs?” – hypotheticals. To impose controls enforceable at gunpoint on people based on what might happen is obnoxious, tyrannical. It is a form of pre-emptive punishment. And, besides, what happens to me is my business.

          You might ask: Well, what if I cause harm to some other person? In that event, hold me responsible. But not before.

          And no one else!

          • 100% agreed. People should be free to drive what they want on the road as long as it meets rudimentary standards such as turn signals and a set of front headlights.

            I am not sure that I would feel comfortable driving a 73 Beetle or a 70 Chevrolet Concours wagon on bias ply tires. I like to drive fast. Therefore, my car of choice would be a 1972 Jaguar XJ12 (or an XJ6 as a daily driver – so that I don’t break down all the time). Given that we went through two energy crises since, I guess that I would demand that such cars have an overdrive transmission and maybe fuel injection for better cold start characteristics and more precise fuel delivery. I bet that these cars would be commonplace in the car market today if you could still get them. In fact, they have been. Most modern sports sedans have great handling, crisp acceleration, smooth rides, a tachometer and a speedometer that reads at least 140 or 160. I think that the early 1970s represents the pinnacle of cost/performance. It could also arguably be the mid 1990s as well. I don’t know. I just like the days before computers decided that they could monitor my tire pressure.

    • Hi Roger,

      I prefer not to be lumped into any collective (e.g., bad drivers) and have control over my car taken over by anyone else. And it is a person(s) who will take control – not the computer, which is merely the means by which control is exercised. The control (the programming) will be in the hands of people – and I am not interested in being controlled by other people. Especially by Clovers – who will control the car according to their dumbed-down standards. Why is it always one-size-fits-all? And always at gunpoint?

      You write:

      “I know some/most people enjoy driving themselves, but it’s not worth tens of thousands of lives (and OVER A MILLION worldwide) each year.”

      You make a value judgment – subjective – and then assert that your value judgment trumps mine (and my right to be left free to drive myself).

      I’ve managed to drive decades without causing an accident, by the way. So, not one of those “tens of thousands of lives” can be laid at my feet!

      • The problem is, it’s not just bad drivers though. Good/responsible drivers are killed all the time. Kids and passengers are killed all the time. Cars are extraordinarily dangerous for everyone, whether or not you’re a bad driver yourself. You can be killed by a bad driver or you can be killed by something (like a deer running into you) out of your control. There are studies that show that pedestrians and bicyclists basically don’t register to most drivers most of the time because drivers are in a different mode of awareness (through no fault of their own). Honestly, in this case (and I feel this way about some environmental and a few other issues as well), I feel like it’s a public safety issue.

        I’m 100% sympathetic to the fact that there are inherent problems with big government dictating to us what can feel like arbitrary rules. And I understand there’s a line that we need to keep the government from crossing. There are nuances to this discussion, but, I mean, insinuating that safety features caused a single SLIGHTLY anomalous year in car accidents is completely disingenuous and you know it–which was the subject of the article.

        Your “right” to be “left free” on what are mostly government owned roadways(–that’s a totally separate issue I know with its own drawbacks/merits) to hurtle around a two-ton chunk of metal that kills tens of thousands of people per year, when you know there are are much much safer (potentially at some point, completely safe) alternatives at some point starts to needlessly infringe on other people’s right to life.

        At what point do we step in to prevent innocent people from dying? It’s a legitimate question, and I’m not claiming to know exactly where that line is. But I think even the most strict libertarian would agree that you shouldn’t be allowed to, for instance, walk around with a blindfold on holding a knife while making stabbing motions on a city street. So obviously there’s a line somewhere. At the very least, I hope you can admit the issue isn’t so cut and dry.

        Not to mention that even invoking the government in the first place is a red-herring. Those safety features don’t exist because of government mandates. They exist because people in the market are demanding those features and the tech allows for them. The government may be requiring certain features, but either way the move to automated driving is inevitable. There will be people who hold out at first (which happens with EVERY new technology), but, probably within our lifetimes, people will not be driving. It won’t be financially viable for a company to even manufacture a drivable car because the entire concept of what a car is and the infrastructure that surrounds it is changing. And it’s going to happen whether or not the government mandates it.

        We’ve got to pick and choose our battles. I don’t think car safety standards is a good one to pick. And yes, you are correct, I am making a value judgement. I’m just one man with an opinion.

        • I’m picking this one. Like all good intentions and almost anything in life, there is a point when you can have too much of it. A person could die from overhydration. While eating a little meat can be good for you. Eat too much and you end up in the hospital. If you are vegan and you lack specific proteins or Omega fatty acids that you can only get from meat or fish, you will end up in the hospital.

          Same with safety features. From 1924 to 1965, before any safety regulations were passsed, the national fatality rate dropped from 31 to 5.5. With rudimentary safety regulations in the 1970s, the fatality rate dropped to 3.5. Very few additional regulations were enacted int he 1980s, but the fatality rate was 2.0 by 1990. After the government mandated airbags in 1993, the fatality rate dropped to 1.75. In the ensuing two decades, with the breakneck pace of safety addons to cars, the fatality rate dropped to around 1.1 beginning in 2010. In 2014, it dropped to 1.08. Today, it is around 1.12. All that said, the low hanging fruit was gotten long ago. If you plot these figures out, you get a visual display of the law of diminishing returns. I’m not entirely sold on these safety requirements.

          • Hi Swamp,

            I’d be fine with it if we were “sold” on it! The problem, though, is that it’s been forced upon us by such as Roger – our Clover from Botswana.

            • Roger whines about being called names instead of realizing he is a collectivist clover. When shown the folly of his ways, does he stop and reflect? No, he doubles down with ridiculous scenarios that make his argument meaningless. Unfortunately, it seems like the clovers are multiplying like rabbits.

    • the junk toys are only being demanded by consumers because government is touting them and promoting them, and quickly mandating them. “Must be necessary, GOVERNMENT are recommending./touting them”.

      Its the whole government as god symdrome…..

  18. Excellent article, Eric. I agree with everything stated. I would also add that the large window pillars and small window openings on the newer cars are having a negative impact as well. With the new cars you can’t see around.

    In addition, fuel economy fatwas have affected throttle response. New cars have excessive throttle delays and talk gearing making for lousy acceleration.

  19. I’d add a couple of items:

    1) Smartphone distracted drivers who text, navigate, talk, and surf the web while driving.

    2) Crappy rear visibility with large blind spots. With most modern car designs, the driver must completely rely upon mirrors to assess the situation of traffic behind him. Mirrors work, but they have blind spots.

  20. I have a new Subaru with all the safety systems, they scare the crap out of me. The car panic brakes for no reason whatsoever, and I’m afraid I’ll be rear ended one day. Shiny tar lines on the road also make it think I’m going out of lane so it yells at me. Changing radio stations requires touching the screen in a very specific location, can’t be done without taking eyes off the road. I do agree with you that cars are getting more distracting. I have two others – one of which has only one safety system – ABS. That’s my favorite car.

    There’s a lot of dangerous driving I personally encounter on a daily basis, it’s like common sense has died. Constant tailgating at highway speeds, maybe 1/2 car length at 65mph. Crazy! People clicking around on cell phones when traffic is moving slow, and in general, just a whole lot of aggression. I’ve been rear ended several times now by distracted drivers, once hard enough to put me out of commission for a few weeks due to the concussion I got getting slammed into at 40mph while completely stopped at a light for a while. Driver was texting.

    • I don’t know your driving style. But I can tell you for sure if you are driving at 65 in the left lane on an interstate, that’s why you’re being tailgated.

      I was hit in the rear end once when stopped at a red light. After a quick look in my rear view mirror at the sound of tires skidding, I saw this Mustang coming at me. I took my foot off the brake pedal. The impact pushed me a few yards before I hit the brake again. Damage was minimal.

      The same thing happened a few years later. Only this time I was in a line of cars. When I heard the skidding, I changed lanes immediately. The car in the lane I was in got hit.

      When I think about the variety accidents I’ve avoided, I can’t see driverless cars getting to that level of sophistication. There are just too many variables.

      • I saw the guy coming, also let go of the brake, you can’t do much with that amount of kinetic energy, though.

        As for tailgating, I sure as hell do not block traffic, I’ve got a lead foot when it comes to the gas pedal (and many years of driving on track and teaching people how to drive fast on a track and car control skills that this requires). I don’t generally speed too much and also stay out of the leftmost lane, since that’s for passing. In fact, nothing pisses me off as much as a left-lane hog. My point was, people drive very aggressively, too aggressively for the street. I’ve got no problem being a couple feet off someone’s rear end going 120mph into a turn on a track, but I know that they’re on top of things and have high situational awareness.

      • depends on the state. Most of the Worst Cursed states have max limits of 65, a few stretches at 70. Most of Oregon and much of Washington are marked 60. And the Chippies pounce at five over.

        Temporarily in texas, where even rural two lane roads are marked at 65, 70, and most of the interstates at 80.

        ANother issue.. the stupid Worst Cursed states ALL have mandated stupid slow truck/trailer speed limits. They mandate a speed differential of five to twenty miles per hour between trucks and cars. Two lane road, some trucker wants to pass the 55 mph line, all following far too closely, but is scared to bring it above 57 or 58… fear of a ticket. SO, slowpoke Trucker takes three miles to pass the four rigs eating each other’s tails….. and fifty cars pile up two lengths apart behind him. Those stupid low limits were imposed by the Teamster’s Unions in California decades ago…. drive 55, truckers take longer, thus work slower, thus get more hours, meaning more pay. Sick system, but there it is.
        Other states make no distinction between classes of vehicles… same max limit for everyone. Yet the truck wreck rate is lower….. no more crowding to get past the mandated slowpokes.

  21. We just got a Honda Pilot Elite fully loaded. Here’s some of the dangerous stuff that is causing us serious safety issue. On roads that are curvy, the speed control will slow the car down and people behind us are caught off guard and come too close to the rear of the car. Curvy roads, the light flashes on the dash, “BRAKE” no matter if there are any cars in front of the Honda. The shaking steering wheel is a real freak out and when it starts no matter how many times it’s happened, we are never ready for it and it causes the driver to panic for a split second. Then the thought kicks in, Oh yea this POS does that out of the blue. One can not turn off and keep it from activating is, the Pilot turning off the motor at lights and stop signs in some cases. Yes it can be turned off each and every time one starts the Pilot but if one forgets, it’s a problem. I just hope that my wife who drives it with our young daughters doesn’t have an issue where it cuts out causing a get away to be delayed leaving them open to a criminal attack. These kinds of attacks do happen and all the time if one takes in the MSM stories. Frankly, I haven’t drove the Pilot yet and have no intentions of doing so. I was wanting to use it to haul my upright bass around because my pick up (I’m not putting a bass worth a lot of hard earned money in the truck bed, even with a padded bass bag) and my corvette, is self explanatory. I was looking at, a Toyota Highlander and/or a KIA SUV, both of which have the same “safety” stuff on them, so no new SUV. I will look around for something used that doesn’t have all that insane junk on it. Frankly, I have never bought a used car or pick up in over 30 years, which is my only choice at this time. But one thing, and you can take this from a former congressman who was even on the Transportation Committee. If these safety add ons by government regulations are the cause of the spike in deaths. The government will cover it up, by rigging the date, stonewalling and every dirty trick to blame it on anything but government stupidity being forced on the auto manufactures.

  22. Come on Eric. You’re ignoring the very obvious main cause for the uptick in fatalities. And it’s NOT all the new “safety gizmos,” although I agree that they may be almost as harmful as they are helpful.

    Drivers are constantly required to shift their eyes off the road in order to operate the majority of secondary controls via touchscreen. If the feds really cared about “safety,” how could they allow new cars to be designed and sold with this glaring defect?

    • Hi Mike,

      I absolutely agree; it’s a combination of distraction and Tech Overload. It’s too much shit going on.

      Whenever I take my Trans Am out, I am reminded how elemental driving used to be.

      My car has power steering and brakes, a gear shifter, speedometer/tach/oil pressure/water temp gauges. That and windshield wipers/turn signals and simple, basic hand controls for everything that can be operated by feel.

      I’m a better-than-average driver; not tooting my horn. But I am a decent shoe, have been on a racetrack, have a lot of experience behind the wheel. And these new cars are becoming Too Damned Much for me to keep track of.

      For the average person, of average skill… it’s not good.

  23. My wife got a loaner Mercedes – I believe a 2017 GLS SUV – when she took her 2010 GLK 350 in for service recently. She hated it! The steering wheel vibrated, the mirrors flashed, and lights came on all over the dash. “Safety” crap. She said no wonder there are more accidents – you’re driving down the road and the damn vehicle starts going off like a casino slot machine (her words, she’s not a car person at all). Would startle anyone into either slamming on the brakes or jerking the steering wheel so the car goes into another lane.

  24. I’m sure “safety” features contribute to the increase in accidents but I’m also convinced that people are no longer taught to drive. For example, knowing how to parallel park is no longer required in many states. The loss of common sense in a great contributor. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen idiots swerve across three lanes to “make” their exit (endangering everyone whose path they crossed) rather than do the safe and intelligent thing: to wit, safely proceed to the exit lane by crossing one lane at a time when the lane is clear then make a u-turn to go back to the exit desired. Sure that may cost a couple of minutes because you had to go out of your way for the u-turn but it is much, much safer; especially when the folks crossing multiple lanes don’t bother to first look over their shoulder to see if the path is clear.

    • whatever happened to remaining aware enough to realise your desired escape ramp is coming up soon, and beginning your lane changes in plenty of time to avoid the described behaviour?

  25. You might be able to make something stupid proof, but never idiot proof … they’re always building a better idiot. Neo-safety-tech cars – not impressed. You’re right, too many distractions coupled with some intermittent but annoying software glitches. There’s so much reinforcing of the roof pillars in my 2015 Focus, I’m forced to use the backup camera to help look around better. I notice most people don’t even look behind or around them before backing anymore . Don’t worry, the camera system will save you.
    In that same Focus, if I switch off the phone, the car freaks out, shrieking “Phone Disconnected”. Really, no kidding. Maye it’s because I turned it off. Then, to add insult to injury, the voice command features are pretty retarded and frustrating. I asked it to call someone the other and it failed miserably. I tried three times and finally just had to pick up the phone and hand select the number I needed. So much for the technology that supposed to reduce driver distractions.
    Just recently retired from truck driving. New trucks are filled with this garbage. It’s very distracting to have some so-called safety system going into hysterics for every little thing many of which I am already well aware of or are false alarms. Can’t imagine what team driving must be like when one driver is trying to sleep in the bunk and the electronic safety nazi systems keep squawking and beeping.

    • RP, we have a 2015 Focus and I agree: it’s the hardest car to see out of that I’ve ever owned, although there might be worse out there.
      Oh, and don’t forget: “911 assist is set to off.”

      • Yeah, I hate that 911 assist. Who dreams up such useless features. I wish they had a interface where we could at least toggle these feature off if we want to. Maybe some smart entrepreneur will come up with a way.

        • Oh, there IS a way, but you have to pay around $500.00 for the programmer, more if you can’t do it yourself, and you instantly void your warranty.

  26. My 19 year old son, who owns a Suburu WRX says there is no point of driving if you are not in control. Yesterday in the “blizzard” I was trying to park my BMW X-5 on a snowy incline beside the driveway. The widows and camera were covered so I wanted to open the door to back up…immediately put in neutral. Then as I began to slip a little in the snow and the emergency brake kept engaging. There is no question that “smart” technology will be responsible for accidents.

  27. I blame the entire government-controlled system, not just for safety failings but for conflict among drivers as well.
    Instead of being taught to pay attention and cooperate, drivers are trained to look for a sign to tell them what to do every minute, to be offended by silly things, and to stubbornly refuse to yield under certain circumstances.
    If I wanted to design a system that maximized danger and childish behavior among humans, I don’t think I could do better than what the government has given us with its roads. Paint a lot of lines on the ground and tell me that this is “my lane” or that I have the “right of way,” and see the worst of human nature come to the fore.

  28. Good article but you left out the obvious distraction of our phones in the form of talking and texting, the latter being the more significant offender. Without seeing the statistics on age I would believe the newly licensed up to thirty year old drivers are the ones who are dying. I know if I see someone on or using their phone I give them a nice wide birth.

  29. My observation, without being in the car of others to know if they have the supposed safety features: huge uptick in texting while driving. Same low rates of using turn signals. Wouldn’t the safety feature keep buzzing and disturbing the texting if they are changing lanes without signaling?

    • Hi Eric,

      I wonder about the texting… I don’t doubt it contributes… but my sense of things is that we’ve reached a nexus – idiot proofing of cars plus distractions in cars equals what you’d expect…

      • Hi Eric, Yes, in a way I was proving your point: these people are so focused on not-driving that the sounds meant to increase driving safety are even ignored! I bet they don’t ignore the beeping of their cellphones, though.

  30. I would prefer we pay attention to driving more, and have the option of driving a NEW vehicle that doesn’t have all the buzzes, bells, and whistles that interfere with us interacting with our vehicles.

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