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'Safe' cars encourage careless driving


Date published: 6/6/2014

'Safe' cars encourage careless driving

I believe that many of the "safety features" on today's automobiles are really there to make up for poor driving skills.

Anti-lock brakes help emergency hard stops from turning into uncontrollable skidding situations.

Crumple zones are designed so that the car's frame is destroyed, rather than the occupants of the car.

Air bags soften the blow when the vehicle slams into some other heavy object. Lane-change alerts make loud noises when it appears the car is drifting over the center line.

All of these things make us feel like we're driving "safe" cars. But really, these features are there to help reduce the impact of inattentive driving.

If the car will sacrifice its life in the event the driver messes up, there's an added feeling of confidence there that makes drivers feel less vulnerable.

This is the wrong tactic. Driving is a dangerous activity and it commands great attention. When we are immune to the severity of the consequences of not paying attention and being a bad driver, we lose the awareness that we are hurtling a multi-ton piece of metal down the road at amazingly fast speeds.

I think that instead of these "safety features," we need things in our cars that remind us of the real dangers that are out there when we don't pay attention.

I bet if there were little hand grenades installed where all the air bags are, we'd all be a lot more attentive to the way we drive.

Would you look at your cellphone for even a moment if you knew that if you drifted off the shoulder or tapped the back of another car, these little hand grenades in your car would detonate and you'd get really hurt because of your carelessness? I think not.

I propose that we begin to re-educate ourselves as drivers, and realize that today's "safe cars" are really nothing more than devices that enable us to pay less attention and suffer fewer consequences when we drive poorly.

Kenny McKane

Spotsylvania