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Thread: Cost no object when it's for our own good

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    Cost no object when it's for our own good

    So far, at least, we're still free to choose whether to exercise -- or not. We can also decide for ourselves whether to engage in "risky" sports -- for example, skiing (or motorcycle riding).

    But we're not allowed to decide for ourselves when it comes to our cars -- which must, by law, come equipped with a multitude of features designed to make them "safer" -- even if the risks are (increasingly) remote and theoretical while the cost of protecting against them very real.

    And very high.

    Since the mid-1990s, when driver and passenger air bags became mandatory, the "add-on" cost of government-required safety features amounted to at least $1,000 per car in direct manufacturing costs -- plus "lifetime" costs (servicing, repairing and replacing these components) double or triple the initial costs. As an example, when an air bag-equipped car is involved in an accident and the bag(s) deploy, the repair costs (both bags and all related components have to be replaced, including the steering wheel and dashpad, etc.) for these components alone can amount to several thousand dollars. That's before even considering any actual body damage to the vehicle. It's not uncommon for an otherwise repairable vehicle to be "totaled" by the insurance company -- because the cost of replacing the air bags, along with the body damage, exceeds 50 percent of the retail value of the vehicle. Older, modestly priced cars are especially vulnerable on this score. It doesn't take much to incur $3,000 worth of damage to a car these days -- and if the car itself is only worth $5,000 or so, it's doomed. And the owner left with a check that might buy a down payment on a replacement -- but not a replacement vehicle.

    Higher repair costs have thus increased the cost to insure late-model vehicles equipped with air bags -- and these costs will only go up as vehicles are fitted with even more complex/expensive technology that may be damaged and have to be replaced in the event of an accident.

    If an air bag saves your life -- or prevents a major injury -- you won't be worried much about the costs involved. However, most of us do not have unlimited means -- and at some point, cost has to be taken into account -- "reduced risk" notwithstanding. All the technology in the world does you absolutely no good if it's so expensive you can't afford to buy it.

    And things are headed in that direction.

    In addition to driver and passenger frontal airbags, many new cars also come equipped with side-impact and curtain air bags -- even knee airbags -- for as many as six to eight air bags, all told. Side-impact and curtain air bags aren't mandatory -- yet -- but odds are good they will be made so within the next few years. The same is true of technologies such as electronic stability control -- the mandating of which is already under discussion in Congress. As are remote camera back-up monitors (the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act).

    The problem is the quest for the perfectly safe car is a quest of diminishing returns. Seat belts, padded dashboards and safety glass didn't cost much to put into a car -- but provided a dramatic increase in occupant protection during a crash. As we move down the line to things like a baker's dozen air bags and multiple electronic countermeasures (stability control, lane departure warning systems, etc.) we see much more up front cost (and down the road "peripheral" costs) with an ever-diminishing real-world return in terms of lives saved and injuries prevented.

    For example, proponents of the proposal to require all new cars be fitted with closed-circuit back-up cameras point to fewer than 200 injuries (and even fewer deaths) that could have been (in theory) prevented by back-up cameras. An argument could be made that had the drivers involved in these tragedies simply taken the time to make sure no small children were in the path of the vehicle before they moved the shifter lever into Drive, the injuries and deaths could have been avoided -- without the need for complicated and expensive technology. And is it reasonable to impose a cost of several hundred dollars per car (for this one bit of technology alone) to address a "risk" that, at most, might affect a few hundred people out of a nation of 300 million? If it is, then at what point do we call a halt? If it can be shown that a single life might (in theory) be saved by the mandating of "technology x" -- will that be enough to make it so? Irrespective of the cost involved?

    It's hard to nail the figure down precisely, but there's little doubt the average 2007 model car or truck is carrying at least $2,500 in additional "up front" costs for recently-mandated safety equipment -- as well as ever-higher "lifetime" costs (insurance premiums, repair and maintenance, etc.). Add side-impact/curtain air bags, back-up cameras, lane departure warning, intelligent cruise control and stability control to the equation and it's probably low-balling it to say $4,000 per vehicle in government-mandated (or potentially soon-to-be-mandated) safety gear.

    The irony of it is that as new cars become ever-safer (in theory), the more costly they become (in fact) and, accordingly, the stronger the incentive to keep "old faithful" -- even if she hasn't got half a dozen air bags and multiple electronic fail-safes mandated by cost-no-object legislators.

    At least she's paid-for.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2006

    Re: Cost no object when it's for our own good

    It's interesting to check and see what cars cost vs. what people earned at various times in the past.

    In 1962 a VW cost about $1,750, as I remember. I was making about $4,500 that year.

    The current New Beetle has an MRSP of $17,180. Someone in the same kind of job as I was in would be making about $45,000 today.

    Now compare what you get in the two cars for nearly an identical portion of your paycheck.

  3. #3

    Re: Cost no object when it's for our own good

    Some new studies coming out are showing that not only do many of these safety measures don't work, but actually create situations to INCREASE injuries and fatalities.

    Some of the 'for instances... are infant seats. First they discovered that the children were in harm's way to be in the front seat, and then if they were facing backward, and then the correct size, and it goes on and on. The blame, of course, is always on the parents, usually the mother. (Whatever is wrong with us is our mother's fault, right?) Last i heard 95% of the seats are not secured correctly. What? Are 95% of the population to stupid or lazy to install these seats correctly? I think not! Once in a while they place the blame on the manufactures - but never on DOT for giving a false sense of security, because of the fact that sometimes injuries and death can't be prevented.

    One of the blame that the study I read says just that - false sense of security. Situations such as a 25mph or even a 15 mph speed limit in school zones - do the experts really believe that if a child darts out between two cars into the path of a vehicle moving at a slow speed there will be no harm to the child? The slow speed though gives the child, parent and school this false sense of security. They become lax to the danger.

    The same thing with residence street - they badger DOT for STOP signs and traffic light as if these are magic buttons, but all they do is create complacency.

    All of these so-called safety devices take as many lives and maybe more than they save, and we have no choice in the matter.

    Now don't everybody go into a panic and start posting how great seat belts and air bags are, because that isn't the point of my post - the point is we should have the freedom to choose! Pure and simple!

    I can list numerous tales of people trapped in their vehicles with a seat belt while they burned to death, or drowned or was struck by a train, etc. or the people whose air bags went off and crushed their chest, or shattered their skull.

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    Re: Cost no object when it's for our own good

    One of the many bennies to not having kids is that we'll never have to deal with the baby/child seat rigmarole. I have great memories of being a kid and rolling around in the cargo area of huge station wagons; no one ever thought of ordering us to "buckle up" - let alone strapped us into a blankety-blank "safety seat."

  5. #5
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia

    Re: Cost no object when it's for our own good

    Quote Originally Posted by gail
    Some new studies coming out are showing that not only do many of these safety measures don't work, but actually create situations to INCREASE injuries and fatalities.

    <------SNIP!!----> They become lax to the danger.
    And the fact that they are a danger to others especially those on all types of TWO wheels when in the state of laxness!
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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