Safety and Progress

As consumers, we get to determine what products and services succeed.

Our purchases determine what companies sell, but also what they incorporate.

Some developments are in transition. Some things need research.

Here’s an article about what a writer on 60 minutes shared long ago. 

                Back when, while driving a 1973 Chevy Nova, I wasn’t a careless driver, but also not the most cautious to say the least.  Anyway, after two fender benders, I noticed in addition to the front bumper leaning sideways (I had it repaired.), the A-Frame had been tweaked as well, which meant the car would no longer drive straight without a firm grip on the steering wheel.  And for some reason, that reminded me of a television personality and his research.  For I wondered, with just a fender bender, why so much damage had been done.

                He had once shared cars need better than 3-5 mph bumpers.  For anything harder and they start collapsing, costing more and more dollars.  Fast forward a few decades.  These days, it’s become norm to see no bumpers on cars, but more a smooth surface, which I coined the phrase bubble cars.  From one manufacturer to another, we have bubble cars (They literally look like bubbles in comparison to the older generations of vehicles when style was common.).  However, the front and back ends are plastic, so they compact easier and I might assume cost less to replace.  Perhaps.  But I also wondered what is under those plastic surfaces to protect the car and driver.  The next paragraph explains.

                Well, moving backwards about 15 years or so (from today), I was cycling through a city.  At an intersection, I saw two cars crash.  Well, the one in the back crashed into the one who tried stopping at the red light, propelling him and his car well into the intersection.  After I’d attempted to help both drivers, also talking with the ambulance personnel and police about what happened, I looked at the front driver’s car.  It was intact, save the rear plastic bumper covering, and a sort of Styrofoam looking cover over a real, flat, metal plate like thing.  I gathered, that’s what passes for bumpers these days:  a flat metal bar with white foam-like block over (to cushion).  But the car remained intact, such that, he drove away, refusing the ambulance service.  That surprised me as I was certain the driver in the rear car was travelling over 30 mph upon impact, maybe 50,mph, and the one who drove away would have serious neck and other problems later. 

                The following picture is akin to what I saw.  The black metal piece had a white block of strong foam-like material, which serves to “soften” impacts.  The other picture shows crumple zones designed to take some of the shock.

                I later learned that manufacturers design cars to absorb impacts, which must be what happened, but also if it were struck hard enough, the engine would fall out:  literally.  I believe this is done so in a more serious collision, the engine won’t enter the cabin and crush the driver.  Good thinking.  Times have certainly changed.

                While we like the idea of better impact protection, including air bags and safety seats, there are some things we are encouraging the public to read, research, and share their concerns with car manufacturers, for even air bags and shoulder belt have their limitations. Some designs are better than others, some “safety” parts manufacturers are better than others, and some limitations exists when circumstances change.

                I don’t think I’ll ever purchase a car with a rear camera (Some family members have.), no radar to indicate someone in the blind spot, nor any other technology to take control of the vehicle in various circumstances.  I certainly will never purchase a self-driving car. I’m also not a fan of air bags.  I imagine, with time, such things can be improved, but I believe we can never remove the human equation when on the road.

                As I see it, driving is a serious freedom:  with responsibility.  Every driver should be fully aware of what’s around them:  at all times, pay attention to the road and surrounding elements, and be looking so as nothing unexpected occurs (Unexpected things will still occur.).  And learn to drive defensively.  For myself, I can remember two times that I was monitoring, and had I not been, horrific drivers would have caused my crash, and maybe worse.  As such, I avoided possible collisions so I can write about them.

                Technology is only as reliable as when they work.  I will always look around before getting into a vehicle, will look back prior to backing up, and continue looking around as I back up, change lanes, or make a turn, because I know, things change and if the electronics aren’t working, someone can be hurt, even seriously so.  When driving, I will always check my blind spot before changing lanes.  And other than cruise control, I will always be watching the road, my hands on the steering wheel, and passengers will not distract the driver.  Why?  Because we always need be mindful of others on the road, but also that they be mindful of us. Long ago, in a driver’s training course, we learned only a moment is needed for terrible things to happen.  However, for those who use all the principles of safe driving, taking responsibility for their spot on the roads and elsewhere, things are safer.

                Some technology is excellent, or can be, but any technology that reduces driver responsibility, skills, and awareness is “bad” technology.  And I would hope, all driving instructors and the DMV would require all driving skills demonstrated to excellence. 

**We were fortunate to have learned all the “safety” habits early on, taking a drivers’ education course through our school, but then not having a car for a couple of years, save using the family car from time to time. As such, without all the “new technology” (The window opener was a hand knob which we turned and turned. That also often served for climate control.), we relied on our eyes and awareness, taking our time getting places.

**The couple of accidents I “caused” early in my driving “career”, some might say was just accidents. However, upon looking back, I’m aware of a lapse of attention, even an unawareness of possible problems. That can be helped by taking one’s time, being aware, and not being in a hurry.

**I’m not a fan of any technology that takes the responsibility of looking, checking, rechecking, and 100% observation of the road away or lessens. Nothing replaces personal responsibility. And parents must be part of the instruction process when their children are old enough to drive.

2 thoughts on “Safety and Progress

  1. Defensive driving is enormously important, checking for other cars before changing lanes, observing other drivers, being aware of what can go wrong. I’m glad that cars are safer than they used to be, but a careful driver is more important than a protective vehicle. J.

    Liked by 1 person

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