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Thread: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    Belt-Minder should mind its own business
    Annoying safety equipment
    By Eric Peters

    We Americans go from lawn darts and M-80s in mailboxes to kids wearing helmets on their Big Wheels and more air bags in our cars than stereo speakers -- never a sane middle ground. Twenty years ago, there was no such thing as ABS, air bags, traction and stability control. Before 1965, automotive "safety equipment" consisted of a metal dashboard with some vinyl glued to it -- and an impale-you steering wheel pointed right at your sternum. There was no ABS; no stability control -- just you, the fates, and four bias-belted tires.

    Making cars safer is of course a good thing -- but the whole "safety" juggernaut is getting a bit nutty. Some of the automakers, in a hilarious crusade to out-safety the safety nazis, have come up with some seriously annoying equipment that needs to be nixed, pronto.

    Two of the absolute worst offenders are Toyota's reverse-gear beeper and Ford's "Belt-Minder" -- which needs to learn to mind its own business.

    FIrst the Toyota.

    Have you ever been around a garbage truck or large commercial vehicle when it backs up? Often, you'll hear a warning beep -- which is sensible, because these behemoths are unwieldy, have terrible blind spots -- and the driver may not be able to see what's behind him. The beep warns people to get out of the way so as to avoid being flattened. That's fine. But Toyota puts the same beeping noise gizmo in its 2003 Matrix and Celica -- two compact-sized cars with plenty of visibility and which we have to assume were intended to be driven by people not wearing neck braces who have the ability to crane their heads around, or at least use their rear-view mirrors to see what's behind them. But even as a back-up alert, the system is useless -- because the rage-inducing chimes are inside the car -- where they serve only to annoy the driver and occupants -- not outside, to warn people you're about to back-up over them.

    There are few things in this life short of a cattle prod or spilled hot coffee as jarring as having a car go Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! insistently whenever you put the gearshift selector into reverse. -- especially first thing in the morning, when you're still not entirely awake.

    Maybe the intent was to prevent idiots who can't drive from accidentally engaging reverse when they really wanted first -- because on the six speed manual transmission used in the Matrix and Celica, reverse and first are right next to each other at the top left of the shifter gate. But other cars with six speed manual gearboxes (Chevy's Corvette, the BMW M5) have not suffered a rash of unintended reverse-impact accidents at traffic lights. And with all the beeping and chiming going on in its cars from the various electronic devices, the distraction created by well-meaning (or lawsuit-pre-empting) Toyota engineers is surely a greater safety hazard than the remote possibility someone might engage reverse when he meant to engage first gear, then sue the company.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us have to suffer with yet another aggravating contrivance just to get to work.

    Then there's Ford's Big Nanny "Belt-MInder" system.

    initially an option but now standard in all new Ford vehicles. It sets a new low for Gerber-goo wet-diaperism, and ought to be chucked into the waste bin of truly terrible ideas, along with "Al Gore for President" and "Suddenly Susan."

    Ford thinks you ought to "buckle-up for safety" -- which is just fine, conceptually. But installing an obnoxious buzzer that frantically "Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Dings!" like an automated crash warning device on a crippled 747 is taking the lesson a bit far. There is no federal requirement (yet) to either buckle-up, or for the manufacturers to try and force people to buckle up. Yet Belt Minder will relentlessly demand your attention if you have not buckled your seat belt like a good little boy or girl. The light blinks, the buzzer sounds. And the system cycles on an off every couple of minutes like a VC interrogator prodding you with a bamboo stick in a tiger cage if you continue to ignore the command.

    You have trouble waking up in the morning? Well, you won't need another cup of Starbuck's finest anymore. That jarring racket produced by Belt Minder will kick-start your heart faster than a portable defibrilator, and much less pleasantly.

    Belt Minder can be defeated -- but to do so permanently requires an elaborate, multi-step process that is literally several paragraphs long in the owner's manual, and which involves turning the ignition on and off several times, within a precise timeframe, while also buckling and unbuckling the seatbelt itself. Otto Skorzeny had an easier time of it rescuing the Duce from his partisan captors at San Grasso back in '43.

    The temporary way of getting the joy buzzer to stop is either to knuckle under and "buckle-up for safety," as the wet nurses at Ford insist you do -- or buckle the belt without you in it, then just sit right down on top of the infernal thing.

    I have almost put my fist through the dashboard of several new Ford test vehicles over this Belt Minder thing -- because I don't always "buckle-up" -- and believe that's my business. It certainy isn't Ford Motor Company's. I don't ask Ford for advice about my diet, either.

    The worst thing about Belt Minder, however, is that its not an optional extra -- which would make it okay with me. Let those who feel they need this stuff pay for it; instead, you have to accept Belt Minder if you want a new Ford car or truck. This means you're forced to buy a feature you neither need nor want. It's hard to put an exact figure on it, but there's no question that things like this add to the bottom line. And by mass-merchandising this stuff down our throats, the big automakers are effectively compelling standardization. Seat belt systems may soon sprout on other cars built by Ford's competitors as well.

    For example, Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs) used to be a minor nuisance found only on small-volume imported cars, like Volvos and Saabs -- which had them because in Sweden, where it's closer to the Arctic Circle, visibility is often poor. Then goliath General Motors (for cost-cutting reason, not "safety") adopted DRLs across-the-board on all its cars and trucks in order to eliminate the need to make several different lighting systems for the export (principally Canada, where DRLs are required) and home (U.S) markets. This act flooded the market with DRL-equipped vehicles, and today, thanks to the pressure exerted by the presence of millions of GM vehicles equipped with DRLs, other automakers have clambered aboard the DRL bandwagon -- in order to appear as "safety-minded" as GM.

    The truth, however, is that DRLs confer no demonstrable safety benefit in countries with normal light conditions, such as the United States. Nonetheless, we have them in abundance -- and the obnoxious glare they create in our rearview mirrors as well. The driving environment has also become more chaotic and confusing, as rescue and emergency vehicles are now harder to distinguish from other traffic.

    Thanks, GM.

    Toyota's reverse-beeper and Ford's Belt Minder just make matters worse. All these ostensible "safety" tyechnologies do for certain is add another needless layer of stress-inducing overwrought technology to our lives -- and take decisions away from us that are no one's business but our own.

    When did cars morph into cribs?

    END

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    The truth, however, is that DRLs confer no demonstrable safety benefit in countries with normal light conditions, such as the United States. Nonetheless, we have them in abundance --

    I actually like DRLs ....and even in the bright summer days in Sweden I never found them blinding....but they work at a lower voltage than that of the headlights. In Norway i was pulled over by the police because my Volvo DRLs were not bright enough...probaly not helped because of teh small bit of tape covering the lens...the car was RHD. the police asked me to use my foglights also whilst in Norway.

    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    Hi Rex!

    I think they're fine in low-light countries - but inthe US, that's not an issue. And I think a case can be made that the "visual clutter" created by one-third to one-half or more of thevehicles on the road running with their lights on argues against the supposed benefit of increased visibility. As a biker, I am especially concerned about this because DRLs have created an environment in which bikes easily get lost in the crowd - when pre-DRL they really stood out (because bikes run with headlsights on, etc.).

    Weather's great here, fyi - and if my parts arrive I may get the old Kaw running this weekend!

    -Eric

  4. #4
    JohnB
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    One the reasons I didn't even look at any GM product while shopping for my new car was DRLs.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    They are awful.. but I think GM now offers cut-offs; they're just not marketed much and you have to press the dealer a little...

  6. #6
    JohnB
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    Why bother with the damned things in the first place.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    It's all about the children.... doncha know?

  8. #8
    JohnB
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    It's all about the children.... doncha know?
    Whenever I hear that line it makes me feel like running for the hills

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    ... or, to paraphrase Hermann Goering - reaching for my pistol!

  10. #10

    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    To add to the tidbit about the Toyota Matrix: As if the reverse minder wasn't bad enough (won't matter now since the XRS has been axed), the '05 and newer models have the annoying belt buzzer that will continuously beep for a few seconds and then launch into a mad tirade if you insist on not wearing your belt. This also includes the front passenger (a separate light for the passenger annoyingly flashes in the center).

    The Matrix also utilizes its low beams as DRLs. And since I have Silver Stars installed in mine, I have to replace the bulbs much more often than the advertised 1-year life expectancy.

    Toyota dealers will NOT disable the DRLs, citing "safety" reasons.

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    "Toyota dealers will NOT disable the DRLs, citing "safety" reasons."

    What a hassle...!

    But one could install a cutout onself, ja? It's what I'd do. But the DRLs don't annoy me nearly a smuch as the insistent buzzer you mention. It's enough to make you reach for a ball peen hammer.

    A BIG one!

  12. #12
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business

    Quote Originally Posted by alphasubzero949

    Toyota dealers will NOT disable the DRLs, citing "safety" reasons.
    I suggest you look carefully for a "DRL" fuse - pulling that should disable the DRLs.


  13. #13
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Belt-Minder should mind its own business


    "I suggest you look carefully for a "DRL" fuse - pulling that should disable the DRLs."

    Good call; I believe this is indeed the easy fix... some GM people noted the same... .



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