Are cars TOO safe?,

With all the safety devices and creature comforts that are now all the rage, it’s no wonder people are distracted. The average driver is not so much distracted but rather bored. You don’t have to look behind you when you reverse, there is a camera hooked up to a computer that sees obstacles and will put the brakes on for you. Another camera plus sensors keep you from following too closely behind some one. No need to keep a watch on your blind spot, a sensor will beep to warn you if some other car is there. If you stray out of your lane, another beep will wake you up, because you went to sleep siting in your heated, massaging lounge chair with climate control. You don’t even have to know how to parallel park any more! Just push a couple of buttons. Why not call or text some one. you don’t have anything else to do.

I do not have all those fancy gadgets, I imagine it could lull you into a sense of false security.

We’ll see. Up until now safety stuff (air bags, abs, traction control, etc) has greatly reduced traffic fatality rates. But these new items are unproven. And it’ll be hard to separate out the distractions (cell phones, texting) from the impact of the safety options.

Just a small point - abs has had almost no effect on fatality rates. Abs combined with TCS might, though it’s hard to find a reliable source - likely because we don’t yet have enough data.

Yes and no.

Compared to even 20 years ago cars are a lot safer, and that’s a good thing. Though you are right, it does lull most people into a false sense of security. People would be a lot more attentive if there was a 5 inch long spike sticking out of the steering wheel than an airbag.

How many do you know that have had a long road trip and started to doze off? Have you done it
yourself? If you’re by yourself, or if your passenger(s) is asleep, then it’s nice to have that little beep to alert you when it’s sensed you starting to drift off to sleep. How many highways have you seen that have those rumble strips off the side of the road that are designed to shake your car and make noise when you veer off the road? That’s also to help wake sleeping drivers wake up.

With higher and higher trunk lines, it’s becoming more and more difficult to see behind us, even in small sedans like the Civic. And as an owner of a backup camera, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You cannot see everything behind you, even when sticking your head out the door. I imagine it’s really handy for hitching up a trailer, too.

I cannot remember the last time I’ve actually had to parallel park, myself. I have a driveway off the street and everywhere I go has parking spots, so parallel parking has no part of my life. Now, if I moved to New York City or Chicago, then I’d need to know how, but I don’t plan on moving to a large city to have to worry about it.

True that fatalities have gone down, but the number of serious accidents has gone up drastically. These may be nice to have, as bscar2 has mentioned, but they should NEVER be relied upon. YOU still have to drive the car. Besides, who knows when there may be a small short circuit in the “Falling Asleep Alarm” until you’ve already hit a telephone pole?

If you build something that is idiot-proof, God will come along and build a better idiot.

I say you should have to pass a more rigorous competancy test before buying a car with all these gadgets. That is, more rigorous than “I have a license and have a good enough job to afford it.”


There comes a point of diminishing return on any system,safety or emissions,there is no subsitute for competence.personally in most of my circumstances I dislike ABS,but that is my opinion as the vehicle seems to gain speed on a slick surface,but I realize too that its actually intended more as a anti skid and control device(I remember the nightmare in the late seventies when the Dot required antilock brakes on heavy trucks in those days the systems were more hinderence then help(most of the contractors around here unhooked them,so the truck could be driven safely).So these systems can help but driver training is more important-Kevin

If there are any questions about the huge number of lives saved from improvements in safety, take a look here:

And this is fatalities per capita. I think they should have done it in fatalities per million miles, which would have shown even bigger drops (note that average miles driven keeps increasing)

This is a very old argument, so for the sake of only trying to add something new, I’ll offer the following:

Safety equipment and driver safety training are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing saying you can’t have a safe driver in a car with all this safety equipment. If you’ve got some kind of proof that new safety equipment makes drivers behave in a less safe manner, I’d love to see it. Otherwise, this very old argument is based on nothing but speculation and thin air.

The third brake light is a good example of effective safety equipment:

In 1974, psychologist John Voevodsky tested a small, inexpensive gadget that would eventually make U.S. highways much safer. The gadget was a third brake light, mounted in the base of rear windshields so that when drivers pressed their brakes, a triangle of light warned following drivers to slow down. To test whether such a small addition would make a significant difference, Voevodsky equipped 343 San Francisco taxicabs with the third brake light and left 160 taxis with no additional light as a control group. Taxi dispatchers then randomly assigned taxi drivers to taxis with or without the third light, regardless of drivers' expressed preferences. At the end of a 10-month experiment, taxis with a third brake light had suffered 60.6% fewer rear-end collisions than had the control-group taxis. Additionally, drivers of taxis with the third brake light that were struck in the rear by other vehicles were injured 61.1% less often than were drivers of taxis without the light, and repairs to all taxis with the light cost 61.8% less than did repairs to taxis without the light....

To see just how well the CHMSLs worked, the NHTSA has charted police-reported crash data from eight states, and has found that CHMSLs reduce rear impacts by 4.3%. Although less dramatic than the original findings, this finding means that since the CHMSL became standard equipment, there have been about 200,000 fewer crashes, 60,000 fewer injuries, and over $600 million in property damage saved every year - not to mention the lives saved. To put that in dollars and cents: for every dollar spent on manufacturing and installing the third brake light, $3.18 is saved.*

Are cars too safe ? Would you like a girl friend/ wife too pretty ?

Likewise, are you afraid your food will taste too good, and your clothes will fit too comfortably?

Safety equipment and driver safety training are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing saying you can't have a safe driver in a car with all this safety equipment. If you've got some kind of proof that new safety equipment makes drivers behave in a less safe manner, I'd love to see it. Otherwise, this very old argument is based on nothing but speculation and thin air.

Couldn’t agree more.

When you have kids…you drive safely AND you want a car that is very safe. I can prevent a good portion of any accidents by being a good driver…but there are some accidents I can’t prevent from the OTHER drivers on the road. Do you want a car with NO safety features when you’re about the hit the Drunk Driver who’s heading North on the Southbound lane of I-93…while you’re heading South on the Southbound lane less then 1/4 mile away.

There is always some negative reaction to safety equipment. In 1956, Ford introduced safety features into the Fords including a padded dashboard, padded sun visors, deep dish steering wheel, safer door locks and seat belts. I know that the seat belts were an option and not many people were willing to pay for them. At any rate, Ford learned that safety didn’t sell car–purchasers bought Chevrolets which presumably didn’t get into accidents. Ford soon switched its advertising to emphasizing the power of its engines. When seat belts became mandatory, there were people the rebelled against wearing them claiming that one was safer not wearing a seat belt. I remember people thinking that air bags were dangerous. These features we take for granted today and cars are certainly safer than models made back in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a young driver.
In his book, “What You Should Know About Cars”, which was published in the early 1960s, the late Tom McCahill advanced the argument for seat belts and shoulder harnesses, safer door locks that wouldn’t let the door pop open in an accident, and so on. On the safety issue, Tom McCahill was way ahead of his time. On the other hand, on his chapter about motor oils, Tom was against detergent oil and multi-viscosity oil. He said that he preferred “detergent in his bathtub, but not in his crankcase”. He called multivisosity oil “sucker juice” and claimed that 10W-30 was " a lousy 10 weight and a lousy 30 weight oil". Maybe using single weight non-detergent oil would contribute to a safer vehicle. Our motors would all be seized up and our cars would not be on the roads.

One other item that I believe has contributed to safety is radial tires and disk brakes. I remember people arguing against radial tires claiming that the ride was smoother with bias-ply tires. Disk brakes were an option originally that some thought was an unnecessary feature and not worth the money.

Increased seat belt use is probably the single largest contributor to the reduction of the fatality rate. Airbags and crush zones are no doubt second and third, not sure in which order though.

When you talk about safety items, most fall into one of the two categories, those designed to help you avoid the accident and those that save your life in an accident. Few items do both. Better brakes and tires might fall into both categories as they can help you avoid the accident, and if unavoidable, scrub off some of the energy (speed) going into it.

Of all the safety devices though, an alert, safety oriented driver will always be the first line of defense and the single most important factor.

“Of all the safety devices though, an alert, safety oriented driver will always be the first line of defense and the single most important factor”.
@keith–you are right on target. The question is "what keeps a driver alert?
For example, I find the radio a distraction most of the time and really don’t have it on very often. On the other hand, my son has the radio on at a low volume and says that it keeps him alert. I was riding with him when he was 16 and we were caught in a terrible downpour and there was no place to get off. I turned off the radio and he turned it back on and said that having the radio on kept him from being nervous. I always thought that driving a manual transmisson kept me more aware of my driving. My son sold the car they had with a manual transmission and claims that not having to shift gears lets him keep both hands on the wheel. Both of us have accident free driving records–I can only boast that I have driven more years and miles than he has.

Well that is the first time I have heard anyone make a case for a radio being a safety item, but I too like to have it on, but now its iPod because finding good oldies stations is getting hard to do.

IMHO the biggest danger to all the modern safety features and systems is that they may raise the cost of new cars to the point where people will continue to drive their old beaters rather than replace them.

Another danger is implementation of safety features before they’re properly tested and thought through. For example, daytime running lights (DRLs). Data has proven that having lights on makes a huge difference in low light conditions. However, adding extra lights to the front rather than simply having all the lights energized whenever the car is running has cause many drivers to continue driving right through the dusk hours and/or in bad weather without realizing that their lights aren’t on. They’re invisable from all but the front of the vehicle. In fog, in snow, at dawn and at dusk, they’d probably be better off with no DRLs at all, because they might turn their lights on.

ABS is, IMHO, another system that was not well thought out. It allows you to maintain control when skidding at the expense of stopping length, to allow you to steer around trouble, but in the northeast there’s usually noplace to steer TO!

I don’t know the answer. But at some point it would seem to be more productive to refocus resources on removing the cars with the loose nuts in them than in trying to build an accidentproof car. Perhaps that time is now.

The worst antilock brake system I encountered was the one on my 1990 Ford Aerostar. The antilock brake feature was only on the rear wheels. IMHO, this was worse than not having antilock brakes at all.
It’s probably a lost cause, but trying to teach people to operate equpment safely whether it is driving a car or operating a lawn mower makes the most sense. The manufacturers have to put a deadman control on the mower so that when you release the handle, the blade stops. However, I have seen a lot of people just tie the handle down so the mower runs continuously. The best system for controlling the blade was on Sears Craftsman push lawnmower our neighbor bought back in 1953. If you raised the entire handle up, the blade stopped turning. You then stepped on a pedal to start the blade again. There was an enclosed belt drive under the vertical shaft engine. Raising the handle up let the engine move forward loosening the belt. Stepping on the pedal moved the engine back and tightened the belt. The engine was started with the belt disengaged. The belt drive also prevented the engine shaft from being damaged if the blade struck an object. However, I guess safety didn’t even sell on lawnmowers in those days and the system was discontinued. I’ve also heard that the orthopedic surgeons’ union fought against the regulation that mowers must have the deadman control that stops the blade–the orthopedic surgeons have “defeetist” attitudes.
Mountainbike makes a good point about removing the cars with the loose nuts in them. Unfortunately, I guess we have to try to protect some people from themselves.