Cars from the "good old days"

To readers and members I ask for some lines of reasoning.

My American History II Professor staunchly refuses to believe todays cars are safer than cars from the 60’s (he likes to cite the VW bug from that era) and automotive related deaths are lower today than in the 60’s (and steadily decreasing). He is a "when cars were built with real steel " kind of guy.

I have the death statistics situation handled (2008 was lowest since 1961 which had 36,285 deaths) but how can I convince him that cars today are safer and generally better?

Did you show him the 2009 Malibu Vs. 1959 Bel-Aire crash test video?

As you know from these threads, few people can be pried out of set opinions. Here’s more statistics, showing steady, large drops in the fatalities per 100 million miles driven, just in the last 15 years:

ps-the VW Bug??? Not what I’d tie myself to on a safety arguement!

Here’s a plot (note log Y scale)

At least he isn’t speaking about his area of expertise. I would let it go. You have nothing to gain in this argument.

In 1955 the highway traffic deaths in the US were about 50,000!!! In Canada they were about 5000, the usual 10:1 ratio.

Since 1955, the number of miles driven per year has increased 15 times! Yet the fatalities are actually lower! So, today’s cars are at least 15 times safer!!!
The same has happened in Canada. In no way have US and Canadian drivers improved their skills, in fact the opposite may be true!

The VW Beetle, made with “real steel”, was a death trap! Please have your prof read “Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader. He exposes all the safety design flaws of US and foreign cars in the sixties.

Please tell your prof that you read this post written by an SAE member who also does risk analysis. If he still does not believe you please put him in touch with the Insurance Bureau of America and the US Highway Trafic Safety Agency.

If he still does not believe all that, he may want to take a physics class to be able to understand what forces are involved in a car crash.

It’s difficult for you to call him a self absorbed, supercilious igonoramous of course, but that’s exactly what he is. He might even believe the earth is flat.

again this video is not real evidence. remember, these cars had the “x” frame, not a very good chassis. and also, that test crashed the front corners of the cars, wich took advantage of the crap x frame.

also, watch that video. what seems kind of funny? it’s that weird, almost RUST colored cloud of powder. hmmmm…

yes, cars are somewhat safer then back then.

I say “somewhat” because what good is dozens of airbags, ABS (a very good thing), hands free cellular telephone gadgets, if the driver is still doing 80, while typing out individual letters on these tiny phones (hard standing still), eating a hamburger, and putting on make up stuff.

cars may be safer, but because of that, people have gotten to thinking “Hey, this car got a 5 star safety grade, IM INVINCIBLE! I can do whatever I want, I’m safe!”

its best to let him think his way, I doubt you could convince him otherwise.

I get a “video removed” message, any other way to view?

If he doesn’t drive a '60s era Bug or…let’s say…a '59 Buick, then the obvious question would be…Why don’t you drive one of these “superior” vehicles?

But, no matter how obvious that question might be, I don’t suggest that you pose it to him.
Just present scientific evidence and published statistics.

If those do not convince him, then that is his problem.
Arguing with him would make it your problem, and you don’t want to do that.

Styling-wise, yeah, I could see where people come from.

One of the things I liked about the 'good ‘ol days’ was the styling. At least you could tell one vehicle from the other…today? Good luck.

Six of my classmates never made it out of high school. '50’s, '60’s, '70’s cars were DEATH TRAPS. No seat belts. No airbags. Very poor brakes and tires. The rigid steering column frequently went right through the front seat after passing through the driver. The passengers were launched right through the windshield, crushing their sculls and breaking their necks. Blood and guts all over the place.

Oh boy. When I think back on that time I kind of shudder. I had a 59 Bug and I got T boned in town on the drivers side at about 30 mph. No seat belts, hard dash, hard door panels, etc. I had about 6" of seat left. I just got a bad leg for a while but the girl I was with got thrown against the hard door panel and broke her arm. The car was toast and moved up to a 59 Pontiac Catalina wide track and had belts put in first thing.

In 58, my cousin was killed in a 58 Chev convert that hit a bridge abutment at highway speed. No belts, etc. Today, the belts would have held him in, the steering wheel would have collapsed, the air bag would have cusioned the blow, and the car would have absorbed the impact as it collapsed in front of him. I think he would have made it today in the same accident.

Yes they had mass back then but I saw quite a few cars that were fatalities and weren’t all that bad. Today, unless there is the most severe impact that tears or crushes the passenger compartment, people tend to walk away if they are belted. Just no comparison in my book. Yesterday it was reported that a car verred left into the center divider and rolled on the freway. The woman and two kids were fine. They were belted and in car seats. That wouldn’t have happened in 1958. They would have been dead on the road.

So in the end don’t plop this thread on his desk next week? The guy puts out this stuff frequently and no one challenges him. I am 54 years old in a class full of 18 to 24 year olds (yes it does feel odd) but this class is a required core class so I have no choice but to take it if I want my degree.

Today’s cars are much safer. We have computer designs and models that allow creation and testing of “crush zones” and safety features in simulations that have been incorporated into the mfg of even the least expensive autos.

Perhaps the lower death rates can be attributed to much improved road designs as well as improved safety features in the car. Break away sign posts, median guard rails, and better signage have made driving safer too.

Some of yesteryears cars were great, but some were pure junk too. As far as safety design the old cars just never had much safety build into them compared to modern autos. In fact, more steel doesn’t equate to greater safety at all. Steel is a very stiff and unforgiving metal. More steel means more forces of impact go into the passenger hitting the insides for the car with greater force. More steel was part of the problem as far as safety is concerned.

automotive related deaths are lower today than in the 60’s (and steadily decreasing). He is a "when cars were built with real steel " kind of guy.

He’s a history professor…NOT an engineer…or obviously very little Math skills too.

Of course there are fewer deaths in the 60’s then today…There were FAR fewer cars…and far fewer miles driven. Total miles driven today is probably 50-100 times GREATER then back in the 60’s. There were also less then half the number of highways then there are now.

Cars today have what’s known as crumple zones. Basically the car sacrifices itself for the sake of the passenger. Without them in a 50mph crash the car will sustain less damage, but that means the energy NOT absorbed by the car will be transferred to the occupants.

Deaths is one thing…how about serious injury??? When I was a kid our car didn’t have seat belts. The first car I owned had seat belts, but no shoulder harness. There were THOUSANDS of sever injuries caused by accidents because there were no seat belts or shoulder harnesses…And lets not forget air-bags.

Tell him you want to perform a demonstration to illustrate your point. You’re going to crush a beer can on his forehead. Which does he prefer; steel or aluminum?


Sorry to hear that. That’s the answer to folks who say “I drove a '65 Mustang for years, and I’m here!” Of course they are, all the dead folks don’t get to post!