By on November 1, 2006

28002-rollover-accidents-2.jpgLet’s try an experiment. I’ll give you a shiny new multi-blade, swivel head safety razor and an old-fashioned straight razor honed to a fine edge. You shave one side of your face (or one leg, depending on your shaving proclivities) with one razor and the other side with the other one. With which razor will you finish more quickly, and which one will you use very carefully and deliberately? According to a study from a Purdue University research team, the same thing applies to our driving habits: the safer we perceive our cars to be, the less carefully we tend to drive them.

There’s no arguing that today’s vehicles are much safer than those built 20 years ago. Seatbelts, ABS, airbags, ESC, traction control and crumple zones all combine to improve your chances of surviving a major accident and reduce your likelihood and severity of injury in any accident. However, Fred Mannering, a Purdue professor of civil engineering, says the same systems designed to protect us from each other may encourage more aggressive driving. They actually increase our chances of being in an accident and, thus, our chances of injury. 

This phenomenon, which Mannering refers to as the “offset hypothesis,” results when drivers respond to safety improvements by becoming more careless because they expect the technology to protect them regardless of how they drive.

Mannering and his team analyzed accident data from Washington over a five year period, tracking the same drivers as they moved from cars without airbags and ABS into cars with the safety equipment. He and his team built computer models using accident data and driving records for these drivers. They then calculated the probability of being involved in an accident for drivers of different ages and demographics. Mannering reports, "Our findings suggest that the offset hypothesis is occurring and that it is sufficient to counter the modest technological benefits of airbags and antilock brakes."

National Traffic Safety Administration data seem to support his findings. In their last annual report, they show fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled increased 1.4% and the number of fatal crashes increased by 1.9%– in spite of an increased number of airbag and ABS-equipped vehicles on the road. As further validation of his offset hypothesis, more than half of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seatbelts or other restraint devices.

Psychologist Dr. Gerald Wilde takes this concept a bit further in his analysis of risky behavior. In his books "Target Risk" and "Target Risk 2," he states that “people alter their behavior in response to the implementation of health and safety measures, but the riskiness of the way they behave will not change, unless those measures are capable of motivating people to alter the amount of risk they are willing to incur.”

Based on this theory of risk homeostasis, Dr. Wilde postulates that safety measures such as airbags don't produce the changes in driving behavior needed to reduce accident rates because they fail to reduce people's willingness to take risk. In fact, the opposite appears to be true– they actually increase willingness to take risk because drivers perceive that the increase in safety margin allows them to behave in a more risky manner.

Of course, the automakers and safety experts– all of whom have a vested interest in convincing the public of the benefits of various safety devices– don’t agree with Mannering’s findings or Wilde’s hypothesis. No wonder: all their research and data is based on measurements of the number of drivers killed or seriously injured– not whether or not the devices have an impact on accident or injury rates. Volvo openly admits that while they’ve done plenty research on injuries and death rates, they’ve never looked into whether aggressive driving increases with the perceived safety level of a vehicle.

Dr. Wilde states the best way to change risky behavior is to reward those who engage in less risky behavior, instead of punishing those who take more risks (i.e. speeding tickets). He cites studies that show industrial accident rates decrease when employers give bonuses or special recognition to those who exhibit safe behavior.  Insurance companies do this to some extent by offering lower rates to drivers who have fewer accidents and moving violations.

But why not carry it even further? The government could give tax incentives to those who remain accident free over the year. Drivers not incurring any moving violations over a certain time could be allowed to use the carpool lanes. I’m sure there are other rewards which would encourage less risk-taking on the highway and lower accident rates– if the government was serious about lowering accident rates. In the meantime, though, the best we can do is watch out for the hoons who think they’re impervious to the laws of physics. Airbags may save their lives, but they won’t keep them from running that red light.

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83 Comments on “Risky Business...”


  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Not surprising, considering human nature. I own a vintage car, which only gets driven occasionally. When switching from my 2005 car to my 1963 car, I am all too aware of the improvements in handling, braking and safety devices. Thus, I tend to drive more carefully. The bigger problem is that other drivers tend to pull right out in front of me in traffic, expecting an older car to stop as quickly as a modern one. Which makes me drive even MORE carefully…

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    I’m reminded of when I was a passenger back in 1992 in an acquaintance’s Ford Bronco II. You know, the one that had a high rollover rate. The driver was boasting that he had great visibility and felt safer driving that Ranger-derived jalopy than a conventional sedan. In other words, exactly what the study said.

    On the flip side, I’ve had my Miata now for 10 years. No speeding tickets, no moving violations or accidents. The only thing I’ve hit was a deer at 2AM in the darkness. And just like with BuzzDog, I probably drive the Miata more carefully than the Sienna, with its higher stance and 90+ more horsepower.

  • avatar
    Dr. JP

    First, I never thought I would see the word “homeostasis” in an automobile article. Nice.

    Second, Allstate insurance recently started an advertising campaign stating a no-cost reduction in deductible for every non-accident year. We need to encourage more companies to take this type of reward approach.

    Finally, I can’t really support your proposal of using tax law to change driving habits (mainly because our tax laws are too stupid as is), but I like the thinking. What about changing how drivers are licensed? For example, set all licenses to a one year renewal. No accidents or moving violations, automatic extension: you have shown that you either know what you are doing or are very lucky. If you have an accident or moving violation, automatic exam.

    Interesting article.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    RF, How can we blame the big 2.5 for all this? We must find a way, if only to uphold the honor of TTAC.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Dr. JP,

    When I inquired about that Allstate plan you mentioned, they informed me that there was indeed an enrollment cost. They apologized and acknowledged that the advertising had led people to believe it was just some benefit you could sign up for on your policy, free. No dice. All the “deductible rewards” plans have a different price (platinum, gold, silver, or some such tiering)

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    Being 25, I've only driven vehicles with at least 2 airbags, and ABS. That is until a recent purchase of an older Mustang. I had a moment of realization when I drove it home the first time, that I was driving the most powerful, fastest car I've ever owned, yet had the least amount of safety eqpmt around me. No airbags, abs, crumple zones, hell, the seatbelts didn't even retract! I certainly drive it more carefully than my 2004 daily driver. I do however feel that any safety advances offset any increase in poor driving habits. ABS allows drivers to brake later, and better than 15 years ago. Insurance premiums should be the incentive to avoid an accident rather than take the chances though.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    god help me

    I drive at or below the posted speed limit on crowded city streets.

    I drive at or below the posted speed limits on crowded highways.

    I do not tailgate. Ever. Two accidents, insurance went through the ROOF. Never again.

    I let people get in front of me. If a driver in back of me does not like my largesse, I go even slower, inviting them to get in front of me, so they can torment someone else. I wave and smile as they go by. They seem to be having a heart attack. Its kinda funny, is a bad sort of way.

    If you drive 5-10 mph below the average speed on a limited access highway, faster traffic will pass u in clumps, leaving you blissfully alone. I stay to the right, so its easy to pass me.

    I prefer to keep everyone else as far away from me as possible at all times.

    Yes, I arrive one or two minutes later. So what. I refuse to arrive emotionally exhausted from commuting.

    This is what I learned on a 70 minute commute each way through the city, average speed = 20 mph.

    I learned to relax

  • avatar
    LK

    The results of the study make perfect sense – but I think it’s only looking at a small part of the bigger picture. While modern-day safety systems may be partly to blame, I believe that a large portion of the problem is the way that modern vehicles isolate us from the road…steering and brake feel are dampened, and that combined with the reduction of road & wind noise make it seem like we’re playing a video game rather than driving a car. There is very little sense of speed with modern vehicles – you can comfortably drive at triple-digit speeds, whereas 20 or 30 years ago only a few high-end vehicles could travel those speeds and be tractable and composed.

    I have an old Jeep – a 1947 CJ-2A – and when I drive that I’m a far more cautious driver…partly because it doesn’t turn or stop very well, and partly because I’m acutely aware that I’m hurtling down the road in a small metal box. 45mph in that Jeep “feels” faster than 90mph in my daily driver, and I find myself avoiding distractions and paying a lot more attention to my driving.

    As far as rewarding drivers for being safe, I’ve often said that accident-prone drivers should be forced to drive vehicles that are less dangerous to those around them – maybe only a compact car after 1 accident, a subcompact after 2 accidents, and after 3 accidents they should be forced to drive around on one of those little scooter things. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be true – the more accidents people have, the more likely they’ll buy a big SUV because it makes them feel “safer”. Then, the SUV makes them feel more isolated from the road and more invincible, and that combined with the vehicle’s poor handling and high center of gravity makes them even MORE of a danger to everyone else on the road. Obviously we’ll never really be able to link people’s choice of vehicles to their driving performance – but I do think that we need to find a way to address the problem.

    I do object to people that have traffic violations being lumped in with those who have accidents – while I tend to drive well over the limit and have a general disdain for most traffic laws, I haven’t had an accident in over 1 million miles of driving. “Fast driver” and “safe driver” are not mutually exclusive.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I think this is very true. Ironically, Volvo’s have always been regarded as the safest of cars, yet I’ve never ever seen a Volvo driver driving aggressively or dangerously. And LK – I hope I’m never stuck behind you on a one lane road. (Although I think maybe I have.)

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Excellent article!

  • avatar
    dolo54

    not LK rather jerseydevil

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    Amen.

    My ’05 Legacy GT met its fate this way. Took an S-turn too fast in the rain, overcorrected, and slammed into a tree sideways. All thanks to the great feeling of having modern AWD. In the end, it power oversteered like any other RWD or RWD-based AWD car, and flew off the road just like any other car would.

    Don’t think I would go in nearly as fast if I were driving my Firebird :)

  • avatar
    ash78

    LK, I agree with you completely.

    I always commute with the driver window open (weather permitting…and I have a wide tolerance for temps). I like the additional awareness of sounds and situations that this offers. I VERY rarely drive around with windows up and sunroof closed…it’s a very isolating experience, almost unsettling. I like to “feel” how fast I’m going. If you’re not just a little bit scared when driving, you need to be. The whole concept of 4,000# hurtling down the road at 70mph is positively terrifying, but NVH engineers sure do make it quiet and comfortable ;)

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    One variable that might make a huge difference that I didn’t see in the article is congestion. I have been driving the freeways in Toronto on my 40 km commute for 15 years now, and I have definately noticed an increase in the number of cars on the road. With that congestion comes far more people getting frustrated with the speed of the people in front of them, and as a result some pretty crazy driving that must result in accidents.

    Airbags and anti-lock brakes are great (though I’m sure another few articles could be generated on whether they are actually beneficial), but I think congestion plays a much bigger role and in the opposite direction.

    The graduated license scheme mentioned by LK sounds interesting. Maybe each year of accident free driving would get 200 lbs of weight added to your license and each accident would remove 1000 lbs. Want to drive that Suburban? Better have 15 years of accident free driving.

    Good article. I always enjoy this type of story.

  • avatar

    Cavendel:

    Airbags and anti-lock brakes are great (though I’m sure another few articles could be generated on whether they are actually beneficial)

    See http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=2006

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    Amateur boxing has a much higher rate of brain injury than one might expect due to the existence of helmets and padded gloves – the boxers punch each other in the head much more. If they were fighting bareknuckle, a head hit would tend to break their hand, so it’s avoided.

    Same with many other sports. Go play tackle football sans pads and helmets, and compare how hard you’re willing to hit then compared to wearing the full suit of armor used in modern football.

    Seeing this reflected in cars and driving habits isn’t terribly surprising. Human nature is a bitch :)

  • avatar
    miked

    Rather than complicated rules with driver’s licencing that have been proposed earlier in the thread, how about a very simple solution: huge fines for causing an accident. Right now we get ticket for speeding in the name of “safety” (I know it’s not really safety, but rather revenue generation). But rather than giving tickets for speeding where you might possible cause an accident, if you actually cause an accident you should get a huge fine. I bet that if you knew you were getting a $10,000 fine for causing an accident, you’d be much more careful.

  • avatar
    kc2glox

    Couple of thoughts, I’ve always thought people should start out on a motorcycle, you really become aware of traffic around you when every other vehicle can crush you.
    Also, I seem to recall an article awhile back about mounting a spike on the steering wheel would modify drivers behavior as well. Having grown up driving a 67 Cougar, the steering column spear was capped by a big foam bumper, for that exact reason.

  • avatar
    Dr. JP

    ash78,
    Well, that sucks.

    I may be wrong, but it seems like insurance companies are in business to make money, and that more money can be made by insuring safer drivers (moderately lower revenue, but much lower outlays, so bigger profit and higher margins). So encouraging drivers to be safer should increase profits. But they want me to pay more to be encouraged to drive safer? No thanks, I’ll just go with the lowest rate I can find.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Jersey Devil:

    You are on my list.

  • avatar
    gunnarheinrich

    ABS is not in any way a “modest technological benefit”. Try braking in any car with out it in the rain, snow, slush, or even over gravel and you’ll recognize how lost most drivers would be without it. Which brings up the very good point that yes – indeed – having electronic safety nets does tend to permit us to push limits – as do new tyres.

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    Thanks for the link Frank. I remember reading that article and many others beside. My little Acura has trouble stopping in the slush. The brakes pulse and pulse (nice little foot massage actually) but I continue to drift and drift. As a result, I tend to be very conservative with my speed and careful about leaving room for braking when it rains and snows. My Forester on the other hand has tenacious grip and is really a far better car in the snow. Guess which one brings out the more aggressive driver in me, and guess which one I have had a winter accident with and been stuck where I shouldn’t really be driving.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Jonny Lieberman:

    what list?

  • avatar
    ClutchSlip

    I totally af=agree that the “comfort” provided by soft, isolated can actually be self defeating.

    As I have progressed from driving cars that are increasingly more sporty in nature I have found myself becoming increasingly aware of road conditions.

    Of course driver the enhanced “road-feel” is a very intentional engineering decision by the designers of the cars, but one of the results is that it makes me (and perhaps others) quite a bit more “aware” drivers.

    For example, the difference between driving an isolated mid-size Toyota versus a sporty BMW is profound. You find yourself thinking about what is going on underneath you constantly. I can only imagine that this is more true when driving a big, loose but powerful SUV.

    Malcom Gladwell (of Blink fame) has an excellent essay on (SUV) drivers’ perceptions and behavior, it is a must-read:

    http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html

  • avatar
    Fred D.

    I think the wrong conclusion is being made when people move up from an older (non-abs) to a newer (abs equipped) car. What else has changed about the car, besides the addition of abs?

    Power – almost certainly the new car is more powerful than the old. I find myself driving a lot faster and harder in my more powerful accord compared to my civic.

    Refinement – again, like LK mentioned, newer cars are much smoother. I suggest people drive faster because the newer car is generally quieter and handles the road better.

  • avatar
    Glenn

    I “have” to share this letter I wrote to my collector car insurance company which is going out of the business. In a sense, I was explaining “why” it didn’t matter to me.

    I am going to attempt to sell the Corvair convertible in the spring, as fuels containing ethanol are encroaching upon the area where I live (just because it makes them more profit). Ethanol is bad, bad, bad for old cars. I’m going to get a very small tow trailer (RV) instead. I’m only putting 50 to 100 miles on the Corvair per year and it is a pity to have that much money tied up in a car which just takes up space in the garage and my winter-storage garage that I hire.

    So despite being a real car freak, I’m crying uncle and (partly) letting the government drive me out of the hobby.

    The other reason I’m giving up on collector cars is the fact that most Michigan drivers apparently have gotten their driver’s licenses out of a Cracker Jack box. I cannot tell you how many times I have people pulling out of side-roads right in front of me without stopping, running red lights, etc. (And I live in a northern town, not the city).

    Driving standards (an oxymoron if ever there was one) have become lethal here in the U.S. People are apparently relying upon their safety-cocoon cars filled with 6 or 8 airbags, ABS, etc. to save them “when” they crash into other cars, trees, buildings or whatever (while they are chatting on their cell phones, eating Burger King, yelling at the kids in the back seat and attempting to navigate a 5000 pound SUV entirely ineptly).

    One of my friend’s wife was just last week hit head-on by a 21 year old who was passing a semi on a two-lane highway. The car in front of the 21 year old just barely made the maneuver and pulled in with 1/2 second to spare, and my buddy’s wife didn’t even have time to hit the brakes before the other car slammed her nearly into oblivion. All survived, but two cars were totalled and U.S. Highway 31 was closed for 3 hours, and my friend’s wife is still all bruised up, swollen leg, etc. and the 19 year old passenger in car #2 has similar, plus a busted leg. They’re all lucky to be alive, and had they been in 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s or most 1990’s cars, they’d have all died.

    Trouble is, we now ‘need’ such cars to make up for the appallingly bad drivers on the roadways. A few years ago, my best friend and God-daughter were hit head-on by an illegal alien who fell asleep at the wheel and who had no insurance, and who not only was not deported, but didn’t even get a ticket for nearly paralyzing my God-daughter who was 15 at the time.

    End quote. Since I wrote that letter last week, actually 2 evenings ago, there was an horrendous 3-car accident 1 mile from my house on U.S. 31 again, one child ended up going to Grand Rapids Children’s Hospital from 150 miles away, never a good sign. My 19 year old neice, coming home from work,
    missed the accident by about 5 minutes.

    Perhaps the solution is to demand that any drivers at fault in accidents either forfeit their licenses, or drive 1962 Corvairs. I’ll have one for sale in the spring. GM could bring them back into production if the EPA, and all other alphabet soup Nazi-like government organizations would let them. Heh heh.

    No safety devices whatsoever. The steering column is ready to impale. Little drum brakes, not even finned. No power assist. No dual brake circuits – if the hose goes kaput, so do you. Rear engine weight bias. Swing axles. No anti-roll bars. Sloppy recirculating ball steering. Bias tires, no radials. Front seat belts, only (lap, only). I added a driver’s side outside mirror. No airbags (unless a politician happens to catch a ride). No antilock brakes. You’d better learn how to pump brakes in the snow…. ice… rain…. No crash roll bar – it is a convertible so if it flips, you’re DEAD. Squashed under the car, like a bug. Hit a tree? Bye-bye. No “crumple zones” (YOU are the crumple zone against the steering wheel and column or “padded instrument panel” if passenger). The front seat backs don’t even lock. So any rear passengers would pin people in front against whatever, in an accident.

    Yeah, that would make drivers pay attention all right. Or else, we’d have a lot fewer bad drivers on the road…. unsure which.

    It’s surely a question of what came first. Chicken, or egg? Bad drivers forcing car makers to put yet more expensive safety equipment in, or the offset hypothesis? My money is on the latter, in fact.

    I’ve read about what happened to how people drove once the Mini was invented in 1959, in the UK. People had a more stable, front wheel drive car with a very low center of gravity so went faster and drove on the cusp of the handling envelope on little British roads (and still do).

  • avatar

    I love this site, and this article just proves it. Well done.

    I have to say the tax idea though ends it on a “stupid” note. Like somebody else said, the tax laws are bad enough already!

    Again the readers here show themselves to be as smart, if not smarter, than the author. Yes, the overall “removal of road ambiance” has a huge dulling affect on the driver. I too own a vintage machine and REALLY know what is going on around me when driving it, unlike my “daily driver” which will quietly and comfortably cruise at speeds that would have your eyeballs on stems in my old british roadster.

    The cure is not to be found in tax laws, or insurance premiums. The key is education. It is ludicrously easy to get and keep a driver’s license in this country. I have a 16 year old son and I’m shocked at the utterly incompetance of the State concerning how he was trained and tested. The written drivers test, at least in my state, reads like a MADD brochure, with easily 40% of the questions being about DUI issues instead of, say HOW TO DRIVE A CAR!

    So I’ve done what any parent should which is further educate him about what a driver should know, items like lane discipline, awareness, defensive driving. Teaching to NOT talk on cell phones, or eat his lunch at the wheel. I take him out in varying conditions, off a public road, and have him learn what the car behaves like near the edge of the performance envelope. I plan on enrolling him in a performance driving course soon.

    Would I like to get a tax, or insurance benefit from this? Sure, but keeping him alive is my primary motivation. Unfortunately I think I am, by far, in the minority. The rest of the herd is passing their drivers test by knowing that the legal limit is .08% and how many beers it will take to get there, and then climb into their airbagged SUV and drive like an idiot “because they are safe.”

    –chuck

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    Yeah, Jonny L., is the sagacious Jersey Devil right or wrong in your opinion? Go Jersey Devil!

    Also: Safety features may I suppose induce us to drive less carefully, but even when we DO drive carefully, there is often little we can do about the other guy, like the red-light runner who barrels through even after we look both ways before proceeding into the intersection. On balance, I want myself wrapped in air bags and other protections when that happens.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    ClutchSlip:

    what a GREAT article

    here it is again, in case anyone missed it.

    http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html

  • avatar
    ash78

    I had ZERO on-road training in 1992-93. It was all classroom academics. Luckily, my dad had long been a serious car guy and had me behind the wheel by age 11 (on closed-circuit residential roads)

    Get this: Today, certain school districts issue the actual licenses THEMSELVES. That’s right, no “objective” DMV testing. You just get in the car with the instructor you’ve been with all semester (and presumably have rapport with) and s/he checks you off and you get your license in the mail. This is absolutely appalling to me, especially since I thought the DMV were pushovers to begin with.

    My 16-y-o sis-in-law got a new Mustang (V6) a month of two after her license. Two accidents already, only three months later. One at-fault, and one she was rearended–which, despite what the law would have you believe, is truly often preciptated by the person in front braking excessively late (chain reactions notwithstanding). She got her license from her school’s Drivers’ Ed instructor and has never received any training about accident avoidance, emergency handling, etc. Just “Here’s how to drive smoothly and legally,” as our current system is wont to encourage.

  • avatar

    No matter how much driver A focuses on being an excellent, attentive driver, driver B can still cause the accident. Give me the safest car possible any day, thanks.

  • avatar
    carguy

    “Of course, the automakers and safety experts– all of whom have a vested interest in convincing the public of the benefits of various safety devices– don’t agree with Mannering’s findings or Wilde’s hypothesis.”

    Wow – that’s a change of tune. I thought the time honored theory of car sales is that safety doesn’t sell and that the car makers are evil for selling as power, looks but not safety.

    Now it appears that those evil car makers are selling us safety for their own gain? How evil is that! They are doing what Ralph Nader told them to do. Quick, somebody pass a law to make all cars unsafe again!

  • avatar
    one.gear

    Good article, and some good comments. My own point of view as a sometimes cyclist (motor and pedal) is that this attitude of ‘my car has x,y,z and is therefore safe is particularly problematic for cyclists and pedestrians, we all have lots of stories of inept drivers that had one 200x car plow into another in an accident that surely would have killed them both in 1990 unfortunately these cars are heavier and being piloted by the less skilled, and thus more likely to kill cyclists (motor and pedal), pedestrians and kiddies playing in the street…

  • avatar

    Carguy: Sounds like a plan.

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    Jason Pollock:
    No matter how much driver A focuses on being an excellent, attentive driver, driver B can still cause the accident. Give me the safest car possible any day, thanks.

    But Jason, isn’t that part of the point from the articles? If you give everyone cars that make you feel less safe, then everyone will drive safer, resulting in fewer people running into you and deploying your 12 $1500 airbags.

  • avatar
    MW

    Another point to consider is the general coarsening of our culture over the past two decades. Maybe I’m just getting cranky as I slide into middle age, but I can’t help seeing the increasing amount of flat-out hostile driving I see as part of a more general “screw you, rules are for losers” attitude that many of our, ahem, political and business leaders now display. And it also seems like the police have more or less given up on enforcing traffic laws, at least in the mid-sized city where I live. On a more or less daily basis, I can count on witnessing at least one of the following:

    – accident caused by someone changing lanes by cutting in front of people with no warning
    – accident caused by someone driving 70+ through a curved viaduct clearly marked “45” in the rain / snow
    – accident caused by someone running a light that has already been red for several seconds
    – people talking on cell phones while driving (which is illegal where I live)
    – small children in the front seat, often with no seatbelts
    – beater cars with no license plates

    I just don’t remember this level of flat-out disregard for not only traffic laws but sane driving behavior being the case 10 or 20 years ago. Anyone else?

  • avatar
    Glenn

    MW, I could not possibly agree with you more.

    I’ll give an example. In Traverse City, Michigan, a major road is intersected by a small street with a light, 14th Street. I used to leave work, go to 14th, stop at light (left turn lane).

    Watching traffic coming from my right, turning left in front of me to go onto 14th street one day, I sat (in the front of the line) behind a GREEN light and watched – incredulously – as – count ‘em – SEVEN cars/trucks/SUVs breezed through on red.

    Now, when I go that way (rare, now) and I see it happen, I just simply lean on my horn. I figure “someone” out there might actually take notice of it and realize – oh, I just went through a red light.

    And yes, the police HAVE totally given up any semblance of enforcing the rules, probably nation-wide in the USA.

    Just taught my neice (age 19) how to drive AND how to pass the (pathetically easy) Michigan driver’s test, which she did first time. I’m continuing to do remedial teaching in an effort to keep her alive.

    I’ve taught her, among other things, to

    -not talk on the cell phone while driving
    -don’t eat while driving
    -don’t follow too closely – stay at least 2 seconds behind
    -if she is not comfortable at the speed limit (say, in rain, on curves, in wind, whatever) she is to feel free to go slower
    -do not run red lights
    -actually DO stop at all stop signs including the “invisible” ones on minor roads joining major roads
    -keep her car in operating condition and check it’s condition
    -do not allow other drivers to dictate her anger level no matter how bad they are at driving
    -do not exceed the speed limits posted

    You know, the basics. Unlike 99% of drivers, she appears to be able to follow these simple rules. For those who cannot (correction: choose NOT TO) I have one thing to say.

    “What we have here is a lack of civility.”

    In fact, you can laugh if you want to but what we are watching is symptomatic of a failing civilization, as seen in a pandemic attitude of “rules are for EVERYONE ELSE NOT FOR ME” – and this may be seen in many aspects of life, from politicians “playing” with boys, to corporate executives being forced to restate “earnings” as losses, to political ads trying to convince us to accept lie after lie after lie.

  • avatar
    Glenn

    Sorry for the double post folks.

    MW – you are also absolutely correct that driving standards and civility are both declining and have been – but I would say that it has happened over five decades, it’s just that when you are on an expotential curve, you tend to notice it more when the slipperly slope starts to get nearly vertical (downwards). Plus the fact the most of us reading this probably have not lived for 7 decades and watched 5 decades of the slippage into chaos.

    It is by reading things and inferences plus talking with people 20 or 30 years my senior that I concluded it has been about 50 years since the slipperly slope started.

    Once upon a time, it was considered honorable and correct to actually be proud to be a citizen, and not only pay one’s taxes but obey the rules of the roadway, just for two examples.

    Now, when I tell people I attempt to obey the speed limit, for example, they typically look at me like I’m from Mars or somewhere. I even had one colleague say to me that if I tried going the speed limit on Detroit highways, the police should stop and ticket me for obstructing the roadway. I responded to him that if they did so, I would sue their community into the ground for false arrest and whatever else I could think of, and would spend every penny of my savings to take them down. He was speechless.

    I then said – you know, driving is not a civil right – it is a privilege, and we are told by the state – whom we elect ourselves – that as part of accepting a driver’s license, we are accepting the responsibility of obeying the rules as set forth for all to follow. If we do not like speed limits, for one example, we are free to elect people who promise to raise them. Once again, he was speechless.

  • avatar

    dolo54:
    November 1st, 2006 at 10:30 am
    I think this is very true. Ironically, Volvo’s have always been regarded as the safest of cars, yet I’ve never ever seen a Volvo driver driving aggressively or dangerously.

    That’s because people who want especially safe cars buy Volvos, and the same people tend not to drive aggressively.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    The Elephant in the room is… the elephants.

    What cars, which are not in fact that safe, make drivers feel safe and secure?

    Anyone?

  • avatar

    I wonder what effect electronic stability control is going to have on drivers. I can imagine much faster driving under bad weather conditions, more frustration (because people w/ ESC who drive faster will hate getting stuck behind people w/o ESC who drive slower).

  • avatar
    CliffG

    KC2, good point about the motorcycle. I commute a lot on my bike, and will frankly admit I ride differently than I drive quite often. Part of it is simply riding a passive/aggressive style to stay out of blind spots and remain visible, but some of it quite frankly is that it hurts a lot more if something goes wrong. I do think that current cars offer a cocooning experience far in excess of what was usual 30-40 years ago, and that expresses itself in a risk taking approach that is not necessarily purposeful.

  • avatar

    Let’s take this lesson to the extreme, logical, conclusion: Spend the next two years commuting everywhere by motorcycle.

    Trust me, at the end of that period, you’re going to be the safest driver you can ever possibly be. You’ll notice not only cars in intersections, but if the front wheels are starting to move, if the driver’s eye is twitching, etc.. You LEARN how to anticipate all traffic around you, because if you don’t you could easily spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair . . . if you’re lucky.

    I wish every driver could be forced to live on a bike for a couple of years. We’d have a pool of much better drivers at the end of that period.

    Syke
    Deranged Few M/C

  • avatar

    dolo54:

    Your comments on Volvo’s is interesting. In England, Volvo’s are the bane of motorcyclists – somewhere along the line it’s been statistically shown that Volvo predominate in motorcycle/automobile crashes. And for the same reason as this article: Volvo drivers over there are secure in their big safe cars, so they don’t give a damn about the traffic around them.

    Syke
    Deranged Few M/C

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Good question, Jonny,
    I guess the qualities of an elephant would be:
    – mass (since force of impact is a function of mass and speed)
    – high center of gravity. also high percent of weight outside the axles (sorry, beloved RS4 and 911)
    – comfort (as in low NVH, reduced sensation of speed)
    – poor brakes
    – lousy scores in accident avoidance manouvers
    – lack of ESP, side and curtain airbags

    We could measure all cars against these criteria to come up with Top Ten Elephants of the Year, although I doubt it would generate the enthusasm of the Ten Worst List.

    I’m rooting for the Nagrivator.

  • avatar
    naugahyde

    Bad news for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • avatar
    David Yip

    Was pouring rain the other day, other cars were inching along, as someone in an 06 Legacy mashed the gas pedal shooting ahead of everyone else.

    I’ll bet dollars to donuts (Donuts to dollars?) that it was that all-wheel sense of superiority kicking in.

  • avatar
    radimus

    That’s it then. Everyone should be forced to drive nothing but pre-1995 Geo Metros or similar. That’ll keep the roads safe.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Sykerocker is right, believe me, 10 minutes on a motorcycle in traffic and you will NEVER sit at a 3/4 position to a car again. You will also look both ways when a light turns green. You will despise SUVs like the most fervent eco-nazi around. You will also be a complete hooligan just for the hell of it sometimes. Erm, is that ok?

  • avatar
    noley

    This is one of the best articles to appear on this site. And most of the comments are well thought out and make good points. But being me, I’ll jump in with this and take a different spin…

    Yes, cars are safer and that’s a good thing. And I’m sure statistically it can be shown that safer cars are driven more aggressively. But the issue is not that this happens, but why. I doubt that the added safety alone is the culprit, although it is probably aiding and abetting. What much of average driver behavior comes down to is ego and survival instinct, especially when under pressure on increasingly crowded roads.

    If you perceive you are “safer” because you’re in a bigger or safer vehicle and (the survival instinct part) you may be inclined to take greater risks. Then, if that bigger, more isolating vehicle gives you the impression that you are secure no matter what kind of boneheaded moves you make, you may well make more of them–but you simply don’t see your behavior as risky. Other drivers may think you’re a jerk, but what to do you care? You survival instinct says you must be because there’s this big beast of a machine around you.

    Then there’s ego, or maaybe just the lizard part of your brain where you don’t give a damn about anyone else. “That’s my 20 feet or roadway and I’m gonna take it over and you can’t have it.” And if you are safe and secure in your 5000-pound box why back down? You can’t be harmed!!

    Most people will back down from confrontation or in situations where they feel personally threatened, but the threshold for doing so is higher if the threat seems more isolated. Modern cars do so many things well that they feel safe even when they are not. Witness the number of 4-WD vehicles in the median strip during snowstorms if you want further proof.

    Then add to this poorly trained drivers, the number of cars on the road (driven by poorly trained people) increases annually, and that most people deal badly with the combination of stress in their work and professional lives and you have lots of people in safe cars having accidents.

    This is just a piece of all this. There is no single causitive factor but a confluence of things that vary independently to yield some unpleasant results.

  • avatar
    Glenn

    “In England, Volvo’s are the bane of motorcyclists – somewhere along the line it’s been statistically shown that Volvo predominate in motorcycle/automobile crashes. And for the same reason as this article: Volvo drivers over there are secure in their big safe cars, so they don’t give a damn about the traffic around them.

    Syke”

    I heard the same (in spades) from my bro-in-law (a biker) when I lived in the UK. Here in the states, Volvo drivers don’t seem to have that particular reputation.

    However, the same mind-set of drivers appear to purchase Steamroller Ugly Vehicles by the tens of thousands, then proceed to tailgate me in my Prius.

    They cannot initimidate my cruise-control, though, can they?

    I need a bumper sticker. “Keep tailgating. I’m reloading.”

    And no, there has been NO difference in the number of people tailgating me since I started to carefully adhere to the speed limit (after being zapped for a $200 fine for 5 over 6 years ago). I used to drive 5 over “like everyone else.”

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I rode a bike for 7-8 years, always rode a lot better on that than I did in my car. Not always safer but just a whole lot more aware. It’s also a lot easier to be aware on a bike since you have almost nothing around you. You sit almost eye level with large trucks and SUV’s and you are acutely aware that if you are in the slightest fender bender on a bike it’s really going to hurt. Knowing this I’d like to think I drive a tad more defensively in a car but I know I’m not nearly as tuned in to my surroundings in my car as I was on my bike. Slide of the road in a car any you are probably going to be alright, slide off the road on a bike and you could very easily wind up dead.

    As everyone here has said there needs to be better driver education with real seat time in inclement weather conditions with both FWD and RWD cars. Driver’s need to be taught how to control spin, what under and oversteer is, crash avoidance and so forth.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    According to NHTSA study, comparing 2005 to 2004, fatalities rose 1.4 percent, while injuries fell 3.2 percent. Where does the difference come from? Pedestrians and motorcycle riders. Maybe it’s because fewer people are walking or riding, so nobody pays attention to them anymore. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the muted, super-safe transportation shells that cars are today, with their show-off tall chassis and small windows.

    When I came to the USA, I was amazed by how pedestrians were treated. For example, in MD, you MUST yield to a pedestrian, jaywalking or not. If you run him over, he better have a suicide note on him cause otherwise the best you can hope for is a suspended sentence and a revoked license, no matter what the circumstances were. It’s as if pedestrians were endangered species. 5 years ago, I thought it was ridiculous. But now I see that it’s a last ditch effort to make US drivers feel even remotely responsible for their actions. Hardly anyone goes to jail for unintentional vehicular homicide anymore, and get this: you will most likely have smaller fines for causing a moderate accident than you would for driving 90mph on a straight, empty, divided and walled, but 55 mph limited highway (ask me how I know, $305 + 80$ for a pending appeal, and that’s not counting insurance).

    One of my friends got off with zero points and no fines after totaling his car and smashing up another one, causing a lady to spend a day in the hospital, not counting his own injury (long story short, he’s one tough man, checking out of the hospital 2 days after having his lung punctured). All he had to do is take an ONLINE driving course.

    That’s for doing 50 on a 25mph residential street, in an obscured sharp turn. More, he was airborne a split-second before the hit, after jumping a speed bump. With 2 passengers. At night. On a damp road.

    I attribute it partly to the car he was driving, a 91 Ford Probe V6, a heavy “compact” which gave about as much road feel (and percieved security) as an armored personnel carrier. Naturally, it had no ABS, and he locked the brakes dead when he landed.

    However, I’m inclined to think more about lack of responsibility associated with a crash being the cause. Nobody cares anymore. When I crashed my Legacy, my thoughts were, “Oh jeez, I just smashed $25k worth of machinery, that’s a year of somebody’s life down the drain”. What was my mother thinking? Same as almost anybody else would be – “At least he’s alive, that’s great”. My insurance paid me 2k over what I owed on it, and being my first and only accident, the rates didn’t change. Way to reward negative behavior.

    I think we should have deductibles going both ways. You cause an accident, you pay some money out of your own pocket.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Boys — it is SUVs.

    Right research, wrong conclusion.

    I bet that cars continue to get “safer” and that as SUVs as a percentage of vehicles on the road falls, so does the accidnet and death rates.

  • avatar
    dmw

    I don’t think enough emphasis has been put on power here, rather than just the decline of our culture and the somewhat difficult to take idea that people drive faster knowing they have ESP and ABS. Now its true that people may now look at a car wreck as a right of passage, a sh*t happens type of thing. See recent VW ads. But people forget that not long ago a serious performance car, say an early 90s Mustang 5.0, had, what, 245 horses. Plenty. (And 16 inch wheels!). A Jetta 2.0T or a Honda Accord V6 of today would give it serious trouble on the straights as smoke it on the bends. These are now ordniary cars. Imagine if in 1990 every man woman and teenager was piloting a car with the performance of a then current pony car, a real stringback- gloved tire smoking performance car. Insanity. Notwithstanding ESP, and steerable headlights and whatever, the average and typically inattentive driver today is in way over his/her head. This is the case becuse, due to efficiency gains and the relatively low real cost of gas, the price of power has gone down dramatically in the last generation of cars, and the cost of power is therefore now more out of whack with some of its social costs: accidents. Therefore, I say that If you need 350hp to haul you up the on ramp, then you get to pay for it handsomely — I might propose into the fund to rehab the people who live after you hit them when you loose control. Which you will, probably when you are yaking on your bluetooth phone ear piece yelling over the 4 blaring DVDs screens and trying to program you navigation computer, none of which were options on the Mustang.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    To extend Franks theory:

    “The smarter vehicles become, the stupider the drivers get”.

    The self-parking Lexus will create some real manuever-challenged drivers.

  • avatar
    kasumi

    As an all-Volvo family we follow the brand for its reputation for safety. Try to drive well, pay attention and maintain our cars.

    However, almost every near miss (stop signs ran, people tearing through parking lots) involves a cell phone. The whole family was almost obliterated by a teenager in a new 6-series on the phone (no seatbelt as well). Two dogs, a baby and two adults this is the kind of life-destroying accident that people don’t consider. What were her parents thinking letting her drive a 360-HP car? When they handed over the keys couldn’t they have sprung for the hands-free phone? And not wearing a seat belt in a convertible?

    There are just some people who should not be driving, in-car tests should be mandatory and random.

    K.

  • avatar

    Buzz dog – Human nature, indeed.

    Mr. Lieberman – I agree with your SUV comment. A lot of people mistake AWD or 4WD vehicles’ powers and drive ludicrously fast in snow and ice. But they have no magical ability to stop faster on slippery surfaces.

    There should be one of those obnoxious warning stickers on the inside of 4WD and AWD vehicles stating that the vehicles do not have magic brakes.

  • avatar
    LK

    Jonny – the SUV problem is why we need to adopt the graduated licensing program I proposed earlier…then the SUV folks (and anyone else with poor driving skills) would be buzzing around on scooters. Plus, perhaps being forced to drive scooters would limit their chances of finding partners, reproducing, and creating another generation of bad drivers.

    On a more serious note, in my opinion the largest problem with the current crop of SUVs is that they keep trying to make them drive more and more like cars. If you make something drive like a car, people start seeing it as a legitimate choice for daily transportation even when they have no practical use for it. This was not a problem 25 years ago – SUVs drove like the pickup trucks they were based on, and nobody willingly drove one unless they had a darn good reason. Now all the automakers are trying to make them drive like the family sedan, and people are driving them that way…if not even worse, because of the sense of invincibility and extra height they provide.

    When reviewers drive SUVs, they often complain because they don’t drive enough like a ‘normal’ car…but personally I think it should be the other way around. SUVs should not drive even remotely like cars…they should drive so poorly that they constantly pound the fact into your skull that you’re NOT driving a car, and that you need to take extra precautions. If I ruled the world, all SUVs would go back to solid front axles and crude interiors – make driving an SUV a sacrifice, and suddenly you’d discover who really needed SUVs and who didn’t. One of my first vehicles was a 1972 Chevy Blazer, and I can’t imagine any soccer mom driving one as a status symbol or because it made them feel ‘safe’.

    As an engineer in the auto industry, I realize that quite a bit can be done if you have enough technology and enough money…but eventually physics still rears its ugly head, and there’s only so much you can do with a heavy vehicle with a high center of gravity. Stability control and all these other electronic nannies are just going to make the SUV problem worse – not only do people think they’re driving cars, now the electronic systems will mask their driving errors until they get so large that they’re beyond help. A car should scare you before it kills you – meaning, if you make a driving mistake that pushes the limits the car should let you know, so that you can modify your driving habits and be aware of your vehicle’s limits. If those initial incidents are masked by electronic systems, SUV drivers might not become aware of their vehicle’s limits until it’s too late.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    One of the fundamental problems with the government’s approach to automotive crash safety is that it concentrates on protection afforded the people in the vehicle behing tested. Instead, the government should be primarily concerned with the damaged caused to the other vehicle (or bicycle or pedestrian) in the crash. Everyone has a built-in incentive to protect themselves; the government should be concerned with protecting citizens from the actions of others.

    A parallel observation can be made about car insurance: people might be safer drivers if they only had liability insurance. Admittedly I’m well-off on the income scale, but I’ve always felt that if you feel like you need full coverage, then you can’t afford the vehicle.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    The very best drivers are very often motorcycle riders who have transferred to 4 wheels. They are used to anticipating what other people are going to do before they do it, paying for other peoples bad driving if they don’t and have a well developed sense of their surroundings They look through a 180 degree arc and at least a mile down the road, all the time. They have ridden for many years with little or no safety equipment. Maybe everybody should learn to ride a motorcycle first – then the law of survival of the fittest would certainly come into effect and leave us with roads populated by good, but not slow, drivers.

  • avatar
    noley

    Car design and safety features only go so far. There is still the Human Element.

    Despite airbags, ESC, ABS etc., you have people who are as stump stupid as my neighbor who, except when driving a Wrangler with the door off, has never in the 11 years I’ve known her, been seen wearing a seat belt. Not in their long departed Taurus, their two Jeep Cherokees, their Nissan Maxima, or my since deceased S-10 when she used to borrow it.

  • avatar
    pauln

    I can sympathise with the previous writers who described accidents they or their loved ones were in, or who are sure that drivers today are courser and less gentlemanly then 10 or 20 years ago, but the only really relevant issue are long term trends in accident rates and deaths (hard statistics). Both of these have dropped dramatically over the past 4 decades. Is the tiny uptick in 2005 rates a statisitical irrelevance or the beginning of a trend? My memory banks of the 60’s and early 70’s (my youth/young adult years) are filled with impressions of myself and contemporaries doing foolish things in cars, and we were a larger percentage of the population then. In the 1920’s, chicken was played by driving a Model T down the road with no hands on the wheel, and the first person in the car to grab the wheel (before the car went off the road or hit someone) was “chicken”. And what were the safety features on a Model T? Young adults have been engaged in risky behavior since there were young adults. Show me statistics that show thing have really changed, and then I will take notice. Otherwise, you’re just showing your age.

  • avatar
    bonkbonkbonk

    No one has really mentiond the culpability of automakers and the advertising firms they hire. I can’t believe how many SUV-type commercials or print ads I see that do so much to:

    1. Mis-lead consumers to the ruggedness/capabilities of SUV’s. “What’s all wheel drive? I need that, right?” Sound familiar?

    2. Give the impression that somehow any less than an SUV (or truck, for that matter) is un-manly, un-American, and what is that, a MANICURE?!?! You pansy.

  • avatar
    chanman

    It’s not new, or surprising. The Economic concept of “Moral Hazard” as usually applied to insurance applies here as well.

  • avatar
    roadracer

    Other than people pulling out in front of traffic when they should wait, I don’t see much “risky behavior” in my neck of the woods. Certainly people can take the on ramps a little faster.

  • avatar

    I’m on board with Glenn’s idea of revoking the licenses of those who cause accidents. However, have the victim dictate when you or whoever actually get the license back.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    But why not carry it even further? The government could give tax incentives to those who remain accident free over the year. Drivers not incurring any moving violations over a certain time could be allowed to use the carpool lanes. I’m sure there are other rewards which would encourage less risk-taking on the highway and lower accident rates– if the government was serious about lowering accident rates.

    What? Incentives? Balderdash! We’re supposed to be collecting money from hard working, tax-paying citizens, not giving it to them! What would our insurance companies constituents think to reward a safe driver? What’s next, registration discounts for folks who never have accidents?

  • avatar
    dolo54

    sykerocker – must be different over the pond. in the us volvo drivers tend to be of the granola-eating, loving-liberal variety. and i often drive to vermont 5 hours from nyc where i live. usually in the snow because i’m going snowboarding and i can’t tell you how many times i’ve seen suvs in a ditch by the side of the road. one time i saw one take a turn too fast and rollover right in front of me (about a foot of snow on the highway). i was going just as fast but in an old 85 camry, which had no problem taking the turn and avoiding the suv flying along on its side.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    philbailey:

    a lot of motorcyclists around here are far worse drivers than car drivers, because they zoom between cars that are stopped at lights, and go far too fast, so u have absolulely no time to anticipate them. Its terryifying frankly.

    Also, a lot of Harley ridiers, especailly, are very very loud, and seem to like to rev their engines in the city, or beside cars with windows open and filled with little kids, who then cry.

    It sucks real real bad. I wish most motorcyclists would just go away.

    Not all, but most.

    So as you can see, i am not as enamoured of motorcycles as you are.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    jerseydevil i think you’re on the wrong site. this is for enthusiasts not people who disdain driving. and trust me – the motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic are paying a lot more attention to what they’re doing than most people driving. you don’t need to anticipate them, they are anticipating you. and harley riders making kids cry? c’mon this isn’t the easy rider 60s anymore. most harley riders have kids… and grandkids.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    dolo54:
    ,
    You have made my point for me. You excuse lousy. dangerous and obnoxious behavior, saying that I am not an enthusiast. Huh?

    Hardly matters how old the fool is who is behaving badly. It still sucks to be on the recieving end. And, there’s no fool like an old fool.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    driving like mr magoo doesn’t increase anyone’s safety. from what you’ve described of your driving habits it sounds like you enjoy passive aggressive behavior, which increases other drivers frustration levels and may lead to an accident as readily as driving out of control. i don’t really mind if you like to drive like a grandpa, just be a gentlemen and let the faster drivers pass.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    also – loud motorcycle engines are a safety feature – they let people around them know they’re there. 9 times out of 10 if someone hits a biker they say afterwards “i never even saw them”.

  • avatar
    noley

    dolo54–

    You are just making excuses for a lot of bad behavior on the part of motorcyclists. The guys on crotch rockets may be paying attention but they frequently ride in ways that enanger other people. They may not care about being killed or crippled, but if some a-hole on a Ninja pulling a wheelie down main street hits and kills someone your argument falls flat.

    As for Harley’s with loud pipes—that’s just an excuse for the outlaw image and primitive cult bikes that are 20 years behind modern technology. There is no quantitative proof that loud pipes do anything other than annoy other people and damage the rider’s hearing. If there were real data to support this claim motorcycles would all be louder.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    noley

    absolutely.

    thank you

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    dodo

    the motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic are paying a lot more attention to what they’re doing than most people driving.

    loud motorcycle engines are a safety feature – they let people around them know they’re there.

    if motorcyclists are such wonderfull drivers who are aware of everything, why do they NEED loud noises d’ya suppose?

  • avatar
    dolo54

    LOL! way to sink to a schoolyard level. if you cared you could read all about motorcycles and rider safety right on the dmv website. btw – I’m not excusing bad behavior. I don’t support driving beyond your skill level for anyone. but I don’t know why you’re terrified of bikes. they never bother me and I get passed by them all the time. what are you bitching about? you sound like a baby. grow up already.

  • avatar
    noley

    dolo54–

    Lighten up. No one here is terrified of bikes. But many bikes do seem to be riden by people who are less than responsible. It doesn’t matter whether someone weaving in and out of traffic is in, say, a Porsche GT-3, a clapped out Hyundai or a Kawasaki crotch rocket. It’s still puts other people in danger–and that’s not right–no matter your skill level.

    And this is coming from someone who in his bad old days used to drive, shall we say, a tad irresponsibly. On public roads, the putz who pulls out in front of you when you have no place to go kinda takes skill off the table.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    jerseydevil said literally that bikes are “terrifying”… read his original post that i was responding too. i’m pretty light though, thanks.

  • avatar
    boladaz

    long term solution tho this never-ending madness- public transportation. efficient highspeed rails. time to wake up america.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Good article.

    First – the news is not all bad. We have safer cars and worse driving, but the safer cars are winning. Overall death per mile rates have been decreasing for a decades.

    Example: in same speed crash a new car may have 80% less chance of getting killed. But in pratice the death rate goes down 40%. Overall we’re still ahead I guess.

    I agree that overall a quieter smoother ride increases risk. Driving a 6000 lb SUV down the freeway at 80 mph is whisper quiet, downright boring. But if you have to avoid an accident and turn the wheel, things will get excitng in a hurry.

  • avatar

    PAULN –

    The problem is that now adults drive like teenagers used to.


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