By on July 28, 2011

Former TVR owner Peter Wheeler used to explain the lack of airbags in his firm’s high-powered sportscars by arguing drivers would be safer if he installed a metal spike in the middle of each steering wheel. That was back in the late 1990s and early 2000s… since then, the rise of adaptive cruise control, “attention assist” systems, collision-sensing brake pre-loading and more have only made his critique all the more provocative. And, according to research cited in a Wired Magazine report, Wheeler’s philosophy seems to have a strong basis in science.

“The point the automakers are making, which is true, is that they go to extreme lengths to make these systems work and extremely reliable,” [Stanford University's Clifford] Nass said. “The reliability on these systems is very high. If you have automatic cruise control, it’s not extremely often you have to jump into the fray.”

Therein lies the problem. We come to count on our cars to keep us out of trouble, even in situations where the technology isn’t designed to.

“Road hazards other than the car in front of you are so rare, especially on the highway where these adaptive cruise control systems would be in play, that they would, over time, encourage a complacency that undermines safety,” said Erik Blaser, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who studies vision and perception. “You stop paying attention to the driving.”

Though these “semiautonomous” systems are sold as safety equipment, researchers argue that they create a sense of reliance that actually makes drivers less safe (unlike “secret” safety systems like stability control and ABS, which operate consistently without the driver’s knowledge). And, somewhat counterintuitively, these researchers argue that the rise of semiautonomous driver aids actually increases the need for life-long driver eduation.

The report notes:

“The functionality of the technology is very good at this point, but how do you teach people how to use it appropriately?” MIT AgeLab and New England University Transportation Center researcher Bryan]Reimer said. “Reading the owner’s manual is not going to provide the information that you need.”

Instead, he suggests ongoing, lifetime driver training and an end to the American tradition of driver’s education only for new drivers. Auto dealerships should spend more time working with customers to fully explain the limits of automotive safety technology before letting them drive home. Looking further ahead of the curve, cars could one day actively detect drivers’ states — whether they’re tired or distracted, for instance — and allow the use of semiautonomous safety technologies when appropriate.

The limitations of active safety systems must be second nature to drivers, said Nass. Drivers must know what the technology can and can’t do so they don’t rely upon it in situations where it won’t work.

“It’s always a problem with partially autonomous systems,” he said. “You’ll always have the issue of remembering what it does and what it doesn’t do, and in real time we don’t want people pondering that.”

 

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119 Comments on “Do Driver Aids Make Us Worse Drivers?...”


  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Same goes for automatic transmissions. I’ve seen some mighty clueless automatic drivers. Basically helps the person to not learn what is going on or pay attention to what they are doing.

    ABS, although not an active system like the new cruise control and whatnot, as it’s own problems. Especially when the systems were relatively new in the 80′s, drivers never practiced to gain experience using the system (hopefully in a wet or leaf-filled parking lot). I’ve heard clueless people (mostly with automatic transmission cars) complaining about how their breaks were bucking and stuttering so the let up on the pedal pressure and just crashed instead.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Automatic transmissions? They’ve been around for a century or more. Or are you referring to Toyota’s owner’s misapplication of the big pedal on the left of the gas pedal? :)

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I’m a bit baffled by the contention that ABS and stability control does not cause the same problems. I, myself, personally don’t even consider anything but stomping on the pedal if I need to stop quickly. Since adopting an ABS-only attitude to bike buying, I just grab a handful of lever there as well.

      And as for stability control, half the hotdogging M3 drivers in LA make all their 90 degree turns at full throttle, with the tires chirping away and stability control keeping them from making their incompetence too obvious…

      Radar cruise ought to improve safety via at least two pathways; by reducing rear ending, and also by making it more comfortable and convenient to simply sit behind the guy in front, rather than swerving around trying to pass everyone.

      • 0 avatar
        M 1

        I had ABS on my BMW F650GS years ago. (I failed my DMV motorcycle license test because of it; the instructor insisted if I didn’t lock my brakes on one of the tests, I wasn’t doing it right… I finally wised up and took the AMA course instead.)

        Who else has ABS now?

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Who else has ABS now?

        Everybody, pretty much. Honda even offers it on the CBR250. Europe is considering making ABS mandatory on bikes.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ

      If everyone learned to drive manual, maybe you’d see fewer drivers who hit the gas one second and the brake the next, probably with the left foot.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think this already has been established with commercial airline pilots flying on autopilot (as, I believe, they are supposed to do once at cruising altitude). There’s nothing for them to do, so they get bored and inattentive — they’re only human after all.

    With nearly every major highway in the U.S. having “noise grooves” at the end of the roadway (to remind the inattentive driver that he’s about to run off the road), I wonder about the utility of lane departure controls that actually steer the car back into the lane. It seems to me that hitting the noise grooves a couple of times should be an indicator to the driver that he’s in no condition to drive and should pull over and, as the case may be, get some rest or sober up. If the car prevents that from happening, is it really making you more safe?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I think this already has been established with commercial airline pilots flying on autopilot

      Yes, but the presence of automation has dramatically reduced the number of aircraft accidents.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      I would propose a “lane departure warning” that slaps the driver upside the head if they change lanes without signaling.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Yess. Or even an interlock device so the steering wheel won’t turn unless preceded by 3 seconds of blinking……..(I know, not to practical on twisty roads.)

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        How about something for those people who have the turn signal on for miles and miles without actually moving?

        I propose a mandatory device that, if it detects the turn signal remaining on for more than two miles, automatically turns the car in the direction indicated.

      • 0 avatar
        potatobreath

        Some people don’t know what the High Beam indicator means. I had to explain that one to my mother. Auto-resetting stalks are good.

    • 0 avatar
      Eyebolt

      The “noise grooves” (rumble strips we call them here in MI) have their own problem…many people panic and over-correct. So you’re still relying on the driver to do what is correct…an act that many drivers are not equipped handle (ie. slowly turn back onto the road, take some rest, or sober up).

  • avatar
    jmo

    Instead, he suggests ongoing, lifetime driver training and an end to the American tradition of driver’s education only for new drivers.

    Hasn’t it been pretty much proven that “driver education” doesn’t reduce accidents and if anything makes people overconfident and more aggressive?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      I haven’t seen data to that effect, although if you’ve got some it would be informative. I know for motorcyclists, people who take the MSF RiderCourse (or the equivalent) are less likely to get into a serious accident than those who are largely self- or friend-taught. But motorcyclist patterns are probably quite different from car driver patterns.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        +100 on that MSF comment. In the bad old days (30 years ago) my cycle training consisted of being given an old beater bike and told to practice all I wanted in the dealer’s parking lot.

        Fast forward to 2008. My daughter decides she wants a bike. I was able to teach her how to operate it, but other than recounting my experiences, neither she nor I were confident in her abilities. After one intense weekend taking the MSF course, she returned a confident and competent beginner rider. I advise all parents, if the subject comes up, the answer needs to be: no discussion until after you’ve passed the MSF. Plus, they let you use their bikes so if you decide it really isn’t for you, you haven’t committed money to a purchase. Also, at least in NY, passing the course qualifies as your DMV road test, arranging of which is a major hassle.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Hasn’t it been pretty much proven that “driver education” doesn’t reduce accidents and if anything makes people overconfident and more aggressive?

      Pretty much.

      And ironically enough, you can try to educate people about this until you’re blue in the face, yet this still won’t accept it. Which itself confirms the point that you can’t teach people anything that they don’t want to learn.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        LOL! I seem to recall you tried to educate people but all the facts and data in the world wasn’t about to convince them you were right.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Yeah, I’m calling [citation needed]. The Hurt Report showed that 92% of motorcyclists in accidents had no formal training vs. 84% of the total riding population, showing a strong correlation between training and reduced accident rate. [Hurt, p. 125]

        If car drivers’ behavior goes in the other direction, I’d like to see statistics to that effect.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        I have hard time believing driver education makes for less safe driving. I know a few hours at traffic school after I got my first ticket improved my driving. If we’re talking about hooning lessons at the local track, OK, but that’s not really generic driver’s ed. Anybody got links?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        aris,

        This systematic review provides no evidence that post-licence driver education is effective in preventing road traffic injuries or crashes.

        http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/userfiles/ccoch/file/Safety_on_the_road/CD003734.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        I have hard time believing driver education makes for less safe driving.

        As hard as it may be to believe all the evidence suggests it doesn’t do any good. From what I understand the best explanation is that the extra education just makes people over confident and more aggressive.

        I’ll just post the conclusion of a study of 300,000:

        Authors’ conclusions:
        This systematic review provides no evidence that post-licence driver education is effective in preventing road traffic injuries or crashes. Although the results are compatible with a small reduction in the occurrence of traffic offences, this may be due to selection biases or bias in the included trials. Because of the large number of participants included in the meta-analysis (close to 300,000 for some outcomes) we can exclude, with reasonable precision, the possibility of even modest benefits.

        Emphasis mine

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        The American culture tends to be highly skeptical of the scientific process.

        I thought that “driver education” wasn’t responsible for causing overconfidence and aggressive driving, but high-performance driving schools were?

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        jmo,

        Thanks for the link, it was informative.

        One thing I found interesting (I mostly skipped over the bits about correspondence education; was pretty sure that was useless without the study to tell me so) was that if you look at the batches of statistics they used from the 1960s, it shows a reasonably strong correlation between lowered accidents and more training, but by the late 1970s and 1980s it seems to have gone away. (Look at table 4.2, specifically) I wonder why that is? Did pre-license training improve? Or maybe it was that four-wheel drum brakes went out of style (among other technology improvements)?

        Interesting data, in any case. Thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        segfault,

        No one form of education (correspondence, group or individual) was found to be substantially more effective than another, nor was a
        significant difference found between advanced driver education and remedial driver education.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I thought that “driver education” wasn’t responsible for causing overconfidence and aggressive driving, but high-performance driving schools were?

        Driver education is effective for providing driving skills such as braking and steering to those who do not have those skills. In other words, the drivers ed course offered at the local high school will help the kids who have never been behind the wheel to learn enough to get a license.

        Driver training beyond that is generally useless. Some of it, such as skidpad training, can even be detrimental. There is some evidence that professional drivers such as truckers can get some benefits from training, but amateur drivers get, at best, some temporary benefit that is soon lost.

        The link that JMO provided is pretty much in line with all of the research on this topic. Enthusiasts might think that it’s worthy of debate and controvery, but professional researchers don’t see that there’s very much to argue about.

      • 0 avatar

        @jmo: I have looked at the study in the link you have given. I have not been able to find a definition of “driver education”. What is meant? Some dreary papers for self-study, comparable dreary lessons by uninspired instructors in a class room? Of course, this won’t work.

        But I can imagine that on-track “driver training” (vs. “education”) would make a difference, as participants may learn about their own limits and the limits of their cars, especially, if their are more advanced training lessons were you can actually feel how it feels when you loose control.

        This has nothing to do with becoming “over-confident”. You just might be better prepared for emergency situations.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        But I can imagine that on-track “driver training” (vs. “education”) would make a difference, as participants may learn about their own limits and the limits of their cars, especially, if their are more advanced training lessons were you can actually feel how it feels when you loose control.

        That has been studied, and the opposite is true. Advanced training boosts confidence, which increases risk taking, which increases the number of accidents.

        Accidents are caused by excessive risk taking, not by a lack of skills. You can’t educate the risk out of peoples’ heads, although a skidpad might get them more comfortable with taking risks, which just makes things worse.

        Once you understand that accidents are not caused by a lack of talent, this will be easier to understand. The instincts and beliefs of the average driver about what works and what doesn’t work are wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        But I can imagine that on-track “driver training” (vs. “education”) would make a difference

        No, every kind of post license driver education doesn’t do any good. Everything from correspondence courses to track time – none of them can be shown to reduce crashes.

        You could certainly imagine that the median driver, after taking one of these classes, would think, “Wow, now that I know my limits, I bet I can take that corner at 70!”

      • 0 avatar

        Still not convinced. Citation needed. Do you know of any more recent studies on that topic?

        So you would rather advocate for a trial and error approach in that area?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Still not convinced. Citation needed.

        JMO provided you with a link to a metastudy. That included a review of advanced driving courses. Did you not read it?

        Do you know of any more recent studies on that topic?

        That study was done three years ago. Do you honestly expect that research in this field has completely reversed itself in the last three years?

      • 0 avatar

        @Pch101: It is a meta study. If you look under “references” in this study you certainly will agree that these are pretty old.
        Research may have found better data in the meantime.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Research may have found better data in the meantime.

        Again, what radically different research would you reasonably expect to have been undertaken within the last three years? And what do you think could have changed to make the new research completely different from all of the other previous research?

        I go back to my earlier statement: “And ironically enough, you can try to educate people about this until you’re blue in the face, yet this still won’t accept it.” You guys can’t handle the truth.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Pch, he’s saying that the data that the metastudy cites is not particularly recent. The metastudy is from 2008, but it didn’t collect data, it’s a metastudy.

        And he’s right: there are only three studies’ data that it looks at that are later than 1990. The majority of the data is from the eighties.

        I don’t think it would make a difference though: look at the direction the data trends. Late sixties/early seventies seem to show that postlicense education has a benefit, and late seventies/eighties studies show that it isn’t the case. My pet hypothesis is that cars got easier to control (front drum brakes were ubiquitous in the sixties and gone by the eighties, for instance, and ABS was starting to come into circulation), but it could just be that the studies got more rigorous or something. Either way, I see no reason why the trend would switch directions in the nineties. The ball’s in your court, herb.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        I’m postulating that riding a motorcycle (or a bicycle) in traffic for any reasonable period of time, makes for more aware drivers better at planning ahead. Which ought to mean “better” drivers, although at least the MC driving ones are probably preselected from a high risk taking population to begin with, making disambiguating their records difficult.

        Does anyone know of any studies proving me conclusively wrong?

        Otherwise, what better way of making roadways safer, and traffic lighter, than downgrading dangerous drivers’ licenses. From a license to operate three ton Escalades, to 400lb motorbikes or, on repeated offenses, 20lb bicycles.

        In Europe, they do something similar; culling the real hopeless cases early by dropping them off in Italian traffic on little scooters; wearing nothing but shorts and flip flops, and with their girlfriends on the back. And only after proving they can survive a few years of that, do they graduate to half ton Fiats with 50 hp diesel engines.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        he’s saying that the data that the metastudy cites is not particularly recent.

        His point isn’t particularly relevant, as the nature of training and the humans who are getting the training hasn’t changed in the interim. It’s not as if we feel the need to retest the laws of gravity every three years because we have our doubts about them.

        It’s hard for the average person, and for car enthusiasts in particular, to accept the notion that this topic is basically open and shut. Researchers don’t debate this stuff; they all know that training has been a bust.

        Training doesn’t do anything to reduce accident rates because accidents aren’t caused by a lack of skills. Since the problem isn’t related to a deficiency of skills, the solution won’t be found by providing more skills.

      • 0 avatar
        SimonAlberta

        I think that all driver education is not equal. I think people here are talking about “car control” instruction which teaches the physical skills of driving. I have no doubt that many who take this kind of training do so to develop the ability to drive faster rather than safer.

        There are, however, “defensive driving” courses which focus on avoiding trouble. This clearly has the potential to reduce crashes.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        There are, however, “defensive driving” courses which focus on avoiding trouble. This clearly has the potential to reduce crashes.

        The research consistently says that they don’t work.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’m postulating that riding a motorcycle (or a bicycle) in traffic for any reasonable period of time, makes for more aware drivers better at planning ahead.

        It’s possible that motorcycles may be different. As far as I can tell, the research in that field is more limited (which makes sense, given the higher mileage that is devoted to driving and its greater impact on public policy.)

        This metastudy essentially concludes that the motorcycle research is too poor to be relied upon, therefore more research is required:

        Most studies suffered from serious methodological weaknesses. Most studies were non-randomised and controlled poorly for confounders. Most studies also suffered from detection bias due to the poor use of outcome measurement tools such as the sole reliance upon police records or self-reported data. Small sample sizes and short follow-up time after training were also common.

        Authors’ conclusions

        Due to the poor quality of studies identified, we were unable to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of rider training on crash, injury, or offence rates. The findings suggest that mandatory pre-licence training may be an impediment to completing a motorcycle licensing process, possibly indirectly reducing crashes through a reduction in exposure. It is not clear if training (or what type) reduces the risk of crashes, injuries or offences in motorcyclists, and a best rider training practice can therefore not be recommended. As some type of rider training is likely to be necessary to teach motorcyclists to ride a motorcycle safely, rigorous research is needed.

        http://www.motocicletasyseguridadvial.com/Presentaciones/Informes%20y%20Estudios/Cochrane%20motorcyclist%20training.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Thanks, Pch.

        In the absence of studies disproving motorcyclists (and in-traffic bicyclists) are better drivers, I’m gonna stick to my superstitious belief that we are, and continue to look down on the non riding plebs, as incompetent and dangerous enough to warrant an extra burst of speed to get away from…..

      • 0 avatar
        PeterMerlin

        American automobile insurance companies have enough confidence in continuing driver-ed courses that they give a significant premium reduction to seniors if they take a six hour defensive driving class every three years. (Yes the AARP charges a small fee to each participant) Their loss-experience must show that it pays for them to give such a discount. I wonder what would happen if drivers of any age were offered the same opportunity.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        I assume that their loss analysis shows that it has no effect for non-seniors, otherwise they’d probably offer it already (much as many motorcycle insurance outfits will give you a discount with proof of a recent MSF course). I wish I could look at their data but that’s usually a trade secret.

        The studies cited earlier did not divide by age; if it does make a difference that would be interesting. I’d also like it to control for mileage and a couple other factors, too (do the classes seniors take convince them to maybe drive less? Are the classes not accepting or not passing seniors with degraded eyesight or reflexes? All this stuff is interesting!)

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      I don’t think that training reduces the likelihood of operator error.

      When I was doing PFMEA (process failure mode effects analysis) more regularly the group I was in was constantly trying to quantify how effective different methods are at reducing how often failures occur and improving how often failures are detected & corrected before they become customer complaints. Time and again we concluded that “operator training” did absolutely nothing to reduce the likelihood that an assembler would screw up and do something they shouldn’t or forget to do something they should. I don’t see why driving should be any different than other complicated tasks like tightening bolts.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      “Once you understand that accidents are not caused by a lack of talent, this will be easier to understand. The instincts and beliefs of the average driver about what works and what doesn’t work are wrong.”

      Or to put it slightly differently – the problem is active vs passive skills. Enthusiasts are likely to favor active skills – advanced techniques in steering, braking, etc. What’s actually needed is the passive skill of not getting into trouble in the first place.

      Very few accidents are caused by not having race driver skill sets. Very few accidents are cause by having mediocre skill sets. Mostly accidents are caused by spending 3 hours in the bar on the way home, or driving 5 over on glare ice approaching a narrow bridge, or not seeing the brake lights on the car ahead because you are loading the 6th disc into the CD changer………. and so on.

      Taking away ABS or stability control, etc., is not going to make people drive better. It’s just going to make their cars less capable.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I guess it’s a slippery slope/freedom at all costs kind of argument, when do these driving “aids” become nannys and keep us from actually driving?

    For all of the complaining about other drivers, the driver’s aids that seem to have taken on nanny-like responsibilities and the fact that many urban areas roadways will be filled to capacity soon, vehicles(?) like the GM/Segway one featured yesterday start to make sense. In highly congested areas, none of us are going to be moving very quickly, if the cars are networked to avoid collisions, they can be made smaller, lighter and frankly, less imposing.

    With the networked vehicles, they can be smaller and have less onboard safety equipment and possibly even be powered by the road (embedded electrical lines), which make for great commuter mobiles. OTOH, at that point, why not take the bus?

    Of course, you’ll be able to spot me, I’ll be driving my Cockroach of the Road®, enjoying the last of my mobility with my automatic trans and first generation anti-lock brakes…

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I never had formal driver ed, as the class was full. My dad taught me in his 1960 Impala, complete with unassisted steering and brakes. As it was a sports sedan, it did have outstanding visibility. That being said, the first thing dad taught me is to know the width of the car. Besides that, he taught me about the sixth sense one develops after gaining experience, little things that can keep you alive, too numerous to mention, but vital.

      He used to let me drive to church on Sundays when I was 15 – back then (1967), there were few cars on the road, and we only had to travel about a mile. Going home, dad drove, but he wanted me to experience real driving. Probably don’t want to do that nowadays!

  • avatar

    Each of these operator-coddling conveniences adds cost and complexity while simultaneously reducing safety concerns. Each control we so willingly relinquish in the pursuit of convenience is another step away from choice in others.

    We are fostering a society of vehicle operators utterly unqualified to drive. Anti-lock brakes, adaptive cruise control, parking assist, rearview cameras – these are skills which anyone behind the wheel of a motor vehicle should be *required* to master, yet instead of raising the bar, we’re all too happy to lower it in pursuit of lowest common denominator mediocrity.

    Since we can’t get the aforementioned steering wheel-mounted spike, and it’s unlikely any OEM will respect their customers enough to make this sort of bloatware optional (imagine the cost/weight savings of a seatbelts-only safety package), methinks the only remaining option would be making traffic fines reflective of gross income and allowing insurance carriers to double the premium on any infraction.

    Driving requires two feet, two hands, two eyes, and one brain. Anything else is best served by mass transit.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      (imagine the cost/weight savings of a seatbelts-only safety package),

      Minimal. If you want to take out 1/2 the sound deadening and 1/2 the crash structure then you’re talking. The ABS/Stability controller and the air bag module – not much of a savings there.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      As long as the systems in question do not depend on every other trafficant having similar installed to work, I don’t really see the harm in them.

      I do have an issue with mandating features designed solely to improve the safety of the vehicle in question’s occupants. If people want to save weight and money by risking their own lives, that ought not be anyone’s business but their own. After all, they already can, by simply choosing a cheaper and lighter vehicle, the motorcycle.

      The effect of all these mandated crash structures etc. is simply to drive up the cost of the cheapest new cars, leaving the less than affluent with older vehicles that don’t have the safety features in the first place.

      But things like decent brakes, which nowadays arguably means abs, improve the safety of others as well, hence is a bit harder to dismiss as simple progtard we-know-better-than-you-what-is-best-for-you-ism.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that those who have cars with these features come to rely on them and then drive a car without them. Once they get into a car without them they may not necessarily realize that the car doesn’t have them and might not drive with the same diligence as somebody who has a “regular” car.

    I’m trying very hard not to cast aspersions since I know that not all drivers of cars with nifty features are going to fail to realize that, at least for now, their cars are the exceptions.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      …Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that those who have cars with these features come to rely on them and then drive a car without them…

      Now try switching from your late model and get into a mid 90′s car. The difference in the brakes is amazing. I have to remind myself that the brakes are nothing like what I commute with every day. Most have no way to do such back to back comparisons. We take for granted how really good even basic modern cars are…

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        There’s a huge difference. I’ve got a 95 Explorer which has outstanding brakes, 4 wheel 10.5″ discs with ABS, that can stop that 4100 pound SUV in about 140 feet from 60. my 3900 pound 1977 Chevelle with 11″ rotors and 11″ drums has no feel in the pedal, and stops from 60 in a lackluster 190 feet with probably one or two wheels skidding. Now we go to my friends 3600 pound convertible 1971 Chevelle with 4 9.5″ un-assisted drums, it stops in a mediocre 220 feet.

        The only real difference in the two Chevelles is that mine is more confidence inspiring in heavy traffic, but it will still fade after a bit, long after the 71s brakes have faded to nothing, and the Explorer just asks for more.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I know from experience things can work the other way as well, as I nowadays drive like a sedated granny every time I’m in a car without abs, if there is even the slightest chance of encountering a less than ideal traction surface.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Get used to it. The vast majority of American drivers do not want to be engaged in their driving. They want to be engaged in talking on the cellphone, texting, drinking coffee, eating a burger, putting on make-up, or disciplining their children.

    The inevitable conclusion is that they will buy more and more equipment to relive them of the onerous task of driving. What is now optional equipment on “luxury” cars will become standard equipment on all cars, and then mandatory safety standards.

    By mid-century, active driving on public highways by human beings will be illegal.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      or disciplining their children.

      As someone who was rear ended by a woman trying to reach around and beat her kids, while driving – I saw I welcome our new robot overlords.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Disciplining their children? From what I’ve seen, most people don’t bother to do that anymore, preferring instead to allow them to run about and squeal like feral boars.

    • 0 avatar

      The vast majority of American people do not want to be engaged in anything besides sitting on the sofa, which is what modern vehicles are turning into. Rolling home entertainment systems.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        sitting on the sofa, which is what modern vehicles are turning into.

        As compared to a ’73 Buick? Sofalike has been a quality of American cars for 60+ years.

  • avatar
    Eyebolt

    These commercials annoy me to no end. “I wasn’t paying attention…but my car was.” Man does that make me happy that they are allowed to drive a one ton death machine at highway speeds within a few feet of me. To me this is the larger problem, nearly anyone is allowed to drive. Considering the number of lives that you take into your hands (yours, your passengers, and others around you during your drive), driving should be taken much more seriously than it is and should be regulated as such.

    Lifelong driver’s ed is one thing, but beyond education you must have testing and enforcement. The regulation of who is allowed to drive is a simply a joke in the US. I have a friend who is 25 and hasn’t driven a car since he took driver’s ed in high school because after graduation he moved to a city where he always took mass transit. He is now moving to a city that is not as accommodating, and all he needs basically do is go into the DMV and walk out with a license. He hasn’t been behind the wheel in almost 10 years, but is allowed on the road with everyone else.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      I basically did the same thing, for some reason my mom was to scared to teach me to drive, so I went and took the test, by some measure of luck passed and have been driving for 20 years w/o one ticket or accident (and yes I know there is statistical luck, but it’s the same statistical luck that keeps most of us alive)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I remember when the 1st ‘parallel parking assist’ or auto parking system Lexus’ hit showrooms and the guys that were pushing women out of the way to get the 1st ones. The best ‘nannies’ won’t save inept drivers when doing something really stupid. ABS brakes increase stopping distance on dry pavement and won’t help on ice skating rinks.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      The studies I’ve seen about ABS and stopping distance were all done in the 1980s. Do modern systems still increase stopping distances over non-ABS braking in ideal situations? My experience is that it seems like you stop faster when you are doing it yourself, but that’s something I doubt I can gauge accurately from the driver’s seat.

      My car’s left side mirror automatically points at the curb when I put the car into reverse. I’ll admit that I find this feature hugely useful. Best “parallel parking assist” feature ever! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      ABS is about steering control not shortening stopping distances. ABS keeps the wheels just short of slipping so that steering (direction) is obtained.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Once people stand on the brakes in a panick situation, they don’t/can’t get themselves to let up just enough to keep control. Teaching people to keep cool is about impossible. Look at the skid marks on the road. They’ll go a long, long ways then take a sharp abrupt turn at the end where the stains are. That means they had plently of time to bring it to a low enough speed but were too panicked to let off and steer around the other car. Other long skids marks will drift off the road because of the crown. That’s the point where you see the curb damage. Besides, any modern hi tech car can skid, given enough snow/ice/oily film/sand on the roadway so it’s best to ‘learn’.

        An unintended consequence of ABS is the screeching tires used to warn errant drivers they’re about to die… People will not honk the horn in a panick situation. Only ‘after’ the collision was avoided. Other times you’re too busy sawing at wheel to honk the horn and the errant driver that would have heard the screeching tires remains oblivious and continues on the collision path.

        I would appreciate an ‘ABS OFF’ switch because I learned not to panick plus I automatically pump the brakes in slippery stop conditions or hard stop/turn situations.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I very much doubt any contemporary car ABS system “increase stopping distance on dry pavement.”

      In addition to preventing loss of steering control, abs, or at least some technology embedded in modern brake systems, also apportions brake force according to individual tire traction, something no passive system can hope to do. And they even do so dynamically, so that brakeforce initially is distributed fairly evenly front to rear, but as soon as the vehicle dives forward from braking, the rears let up a bit, while the fronts clamp down harder.

      There is also the phenomenon of friction, hence traction, being higher just before lockup than just after. So that keeping the tires just shy of sliding, slows the car faster than letting them lock up, even disregarding directional control.

      On motorbikes, where the rider has individual, instantaneous control of the brake force applied to each wheel, there are supposedly riders who with enough familiarity with a pristine surface, can outbrake abs there by a few feet.

      But for new cars with the latest brake systems, no way. Those things are now so close to the theoretical maximum for a given tire traction, that the low hanging fruit now is to have the brake actuator sense panic braking in the first fraction of an inch of pedal travel, and then apply max brakeforce faster than a human can press his foot a few inches down.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Given a slippery enough roadway, the only way to keep the wheels rolling is completely letting up on the brakes and reapplying over & over. ABS needs a certain amount of friction to be any kind of advantage. Haven’t overwelmed the ABS? I was going down steep muddy clay road at 20 MPH, braking the whole time. Came to a righthand off camber turn and despite the ABS, the front wheels locked & were sliding straight towards the ravine. The only reason I saved it was by pumping the hell out of those ABS brakes.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        ABS needs a certain amount of friction to be any kind of advantage

        A point is that ABS/EBFD and ESC work well for most people most of the time. There are precious few situations, especially off of a racetrack and when you’re not already taking a risk, where a highly skilled driver might do better, and almost no situations where Joe or Jane Commuter would.

        On balance, these systems do much more good than harm.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I’m not saying all these ‘nannies’ do more harm than good but they should complement your knowledge & experience not substitute it.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I keep reading on ttac that a lot of the reason German drivers are so capable of driving at autobahn speeds is that they get lots of driver education.
    “This is understandable when you realize that a German driver’s license costs [over $2000], after a minimum of 25-45 hours of professional instruction plus 12 hours of theory, and such a license is good for life.
    Now I read here that driver education accomplishes nothing. I find it troubling that the study doesn’t seem to distinguish between “performance” and “safety” courses.

    Also, the study excluded pre-licensing driver education. This is a major limitation of the value of the study

    We were offered driver ed in highschool. Many of my peers used the course as leverage to begin driving, and a shocking number of them soon had serious teen-style accidents.

    If the study’s conclusion is valid, then it suggests that everything that can be viewed as safety training is a waste of time. Good grief.

    As for safety aids on cars, I definitely drive faster because my car has bumpers.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I keep reading on ttac that a lot of the reason German drivers are so capable of driving at autobahn speeds is that they get lots of driver education.

    That would seem to be a myth. There are plenty of nations with difficult licensing regimes that have high fatality rates, while countries with fairly easy requirements such as the US and Canada are competitive with the developed world.

    I find it troubling that the study doesn’t seem to distinguish between “performance” and “safety” courses.

    Research suggests that performance courses lead to higher crash rates.

    We were offered driver ed in highschool. Many of my peers used the course as leverage to begin driving, and a shocking number of them soon had serious teen-style accidents.

    Drivers education courses for beginners do a good job of teaching basic skills to new drivers, which allows them to get on the road. These young drivers then use their new-found skills to crash into others and to destroy property at higher rates than the rest of the population.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Germans have lower accident rates per vehicle mile driven compared to the USA. And they drive at higher average speeds.

      I suspect that is a function of both better driver basic skills and differing enforcement (along with penalties) of driving laws (which, in Germany, tend to emphasize safety over revenue).

      That fact shows that better training AND incentives can make for safer roads. That any type of driver training (over our typical ass-hat driver ed) is a waste I find hard to believe and completely at odds with real world experience.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Germans have lower accident rates per vehicle mile driven compared to the USA. And they drive at higher average speeds.

        There are numerous European countries with strict licensing regimes, such as those in Southern Europe, which routinely have higher fatality rates than the United States.

        There are developed countries with lower speed limits than the US, such as Japan and Sweden, that typically have lower fatality rates than do the United States.

        You can’t hang your hat on a single country to prove anything. You should look at the total array of data to make your conclusions. If you did, you’ll find that:

        -Speed limits don’t neatly correlate with fatality rates

        -Driver license requirements don’t neatly correlate with fatality rates

        And for that matter, speed limits don’t neatly correlate with average travel speeds, either. As far as behavior modification tools go, speed limits are about as effective as is driver training, which is to say that they aren’t.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        @Pch101:

        There are numerous European countries with strict licensing regimes, such as those in Southern Europe, which routinely have higher fatality rates than the United States.

        My point about Germany was licensing AND enforcement. Something can be learned from them. They have a good system and, perhaps, we could improve things by moving in their direction a bit.

        You can’t hang your hat on a single country to prove anything.
        I disagree. Some countries do things better than others.

        -Speed limits don’t neatly correlate with fatality rates

        -Driver license requirements don’t neatly correlate with fatality rates

        I never said anything about speed limits. Nice (attempted) deflection, though…

        As far as behavior modification tools go, speed limits are about as effective as is driver training, which is to say that they aren’t.

        I disagree. Training can modify behavior. The US military proves it a couple hundred thousand times per year…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        My point about Germany was licensing AND enforcement.

        And your point is wrong. Again, there are other nations with difficult license tests AND high fatality rates. Yet you want to ignore all of them, and just focus on one particular example that fits into your preconceptions.

        That’s what would a researcher would refer to as selection bias, or what is more commonly referred to as cherry picking.

        Again, Japan has one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, and its speed limit is 100 km/h (62 mph.) Why aren’t you hanging your hat on that?

        I disagree. Training can modify behavior.

        There is no proof of that. And again, this thread illustrates the irony that it is not possible to teach people lessons that they don’t want to learn.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I disagree. Training can modify behavior. The US military proves it a couple hundred thousand times per year…

        This requires clarification: what the military does is conditioning, which is very different from training. I’ve noted this below: military training is to marksmanship as conditioned drivings skills is to driver training.

        The point of the former are to get you do certain things in extremis and without thinking. It’s very intensive, doesn’t always work unless it’s hideously thorough, and requires a lot of time and effort (as in hours on end, for days). The latter is refining a technical skill. The difference between them is that one lets you shoot another human without compunction or hesitation, again and again, whereas the latter helps you shoot a piece of paper in a relaxed social environment.

        If you’re proposing conditioning drivers, sure, that will probably work. I don’t think we can afford the man-years and billions of dollars it would take to put someone through eight-hours-a-day-seven-days-a-week-for-months just to make it to and from work safely.

        Of course, some people just happen to be very good drivers from birth, just like some people are psycopaths and can kill people as effectively without being highly conditioned.

  • avatar
    V-Strom rider

    “Training doesn’t do anything to reduce accident rates because accidents aren’t caused by a lack of skills.”

    This is the core fact overlooked in pretty much all discussion on this topic! Accidents (crashes really – they are too inevitable to be called accidents) are alomost always caused by a lack of concentration and anticipation. As an example, everyone, in every car, can stop quickly enough to avoid a crash if they are travelling at a speed appropriate for the conditions and are paying enough attention to what’s happening up the road ahead and off to the side. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve changed lanes and then avoided a string of sharply-braking cars in my original lane, becuase I was looking further ahead than the tail-lights of the car in front. Riding a motorcycle for 15 years teaches you this. Darwin takes care of those who don’t learn the lesson. Driver training, especially track-based skills training, overlooks this aspect, and in any case it’s hard to teach. I used to coach my son in this by asking him to give me a running commentary on what was going on ahead, alongside and behind him. It’s amazing what you can observe when you are REALLY paying attention. As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson – “you see, but I observe”. By the time skills come into play it’s almost always too late – the opportunity to avoid the crash has passed and physics takes over.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      I was looking further ahead than the tail-lights of the car in front. Riding a motorcycle for 15 years teaches you this. Darwin takes care of those who don’t learn the lesson.

      So… People are too moronic to be trained to do this regularly?

      Watching traffic 1/4 mile ahead, using mirrors to know where other vehicles are, and knowing your vehicle’s characteristics; these skills are beyond the ability of most people? (Or do they have to drive a motorcycle for 15! – not 14, or 10 – years?)

      Sorry. But there’s a subset of poor drivers (one that comes to mind is a fine lady who spent 18 months in Britain) who CAN benefit from additional training. The lady in question came back to the states and noted how crappy her US skills had been (and how they had improved by being forced to get a British license).

      • 0 avatar
        V-Strom rider

        Of course people can be trained in this, but it isn’t easy because it requires a change in attitude and mindset. The greatest barrier to learning isn’t usually ignorance – it’s false knowledge. Many people think they can drive, so are not motivated to learn to do it better. And I didn’t mean to imply that 15 years on a bike is a requirement; that’s just what I have behind me, and it helps. In fact I try to keep learning and improving, so after 20 years I will hopefully be a better rider/driver than I am now. Each time I have a “moment” on two wheels or four, I try to think about why it happended and what I could do differently to prevent it happening again. I don’t say this is impossible to teach or to learn, but it is clearly not currently a priority for most driving schools and most drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        So… People are too moronic to be trained to do this regularly

        Yes.

        You cannot train good judgement, any more than you can train interpersonal skills. It’s an attribute that requires either predisposition or conditioning.

        You can condition people respond better, but that requires a intensity of training that isn’t feasible for people who don’t drive professionally (eg, race car drivers, truckers, airline pilots, stuntmen). The military has interesting material on the kind of conditioning it puts people through to be able to, eg, shoot another human being accurately and without hesitation, and why that training is very different from, eg, civilian marksmanship.

        Actually, let me rephrase the first line: it’s not that people are too moronic, it’s that you have an incorrect assumption of how responsible and in control people are of their own actions, and that if you exhibit poor behaviour it’s a choice and a moral failing. It isn’t: people aren’t good or bad or enterprising or lazy to the degree that you think. People are just people, and when you come to accept that, past the age of five or so, they can’t be bettered or worsened appreciably, you’ll be happier.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I am fairly certain you are correct that spending time on a motorcycle makes you a more alert car driver as well. The need for alertness simply becomes much more obvious when traveling on a bike.

      Instead of the whole drivers ed racket, just make everyone ride 250,000 miles on two wheels before they can graduate to 4. That ought to do it.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    I have been saying for YEARS that these gimmicks (FWD, AWD, traction control, etc) make us worse drivers. They allow drivers to drive at speeds they wouldn’t normally drive at under various conditions. If you are unable to drive a modern day RWD vehicle in the snow with modern day all season tires (open diff and no TC) then you should NOT be allowed to drive. If you have to rely on these gimmicky systems to drive in the snow….you are incompetent and a danger.

    I, in a proper RWD vehicle, may not get going as fast as you can in your fancy AWD appliance, but I know exactly how slippery it is out there and will adjust my speed accordingly. You on the other will roll your car because you were driving too fast for conditions…conditions that were masked by your gimmick AWD system.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      you should NOT be allowed to drive.

      Have fun getting that through your state legislature.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      I’m upping my offer. $5 Paypal to never post here again.

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        If the truth bothers you, don’t read it.

      • 0 avatar
        rwb

        Is that your given name, Mr Silvy? I don’t know what your parents were thinking when they wrote “Z71″ on that birth certificate, but they should have known it would lead their son to become bitter and blithe, at least on the internet.

        I suppose, though, I should have seen your original point as self-evident since, every time I do some winter driving in a FWD or AWD car, I find myself upside down in a ditch, while in an open-diff RWD car or truck I get to my destination just fine 100% of the time.

        “The Truth” as presented by you and people like you does not “bother” me. That’s the wrong word for it: It just makes me a little bit less confident in the people around me, and their ability to understand the world around them.

        Offer still stands, by the way. Doesn’t a Big & Tasty sound good right about now?

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      I’m sure you can find some evidence that this is all the fault of that evil Ford Motor Company (even though, to its credit, it was GM that aggressively introduced low-cost versions of “gimmicky systems” – ABS and traction control – in the early- to mid-1990s)…

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        I don’t see the connection only GM or Ford have to this issue. It’s industry wide.

        Ford’s issue is encouraging distracted driving by saying SYNC is a safer alternative to talking on the phone.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Short answer, yes.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Over reliance on gimmicks and nannies goes back much further than most people realize. The problem started with juice brakes. Rod or cable actuated brakes were fine, but then hydraulics were introduced and people became overconfident and reckless.

    Actually, on second thought, it started when brakes were placed on the rear wheels. The previous system – a band on the transmission was sufficient.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Over reliance on gimmicks and nannies goes back much further than most people realize. The problem started with juice brakes.

      You forgot those other gimmicks such as industrial combustion engines, steering wheels and headlights.

      God gave me a fine pair of legs that allow me to move, I don’t need no stinkin’ wheel to point myself in the right direction, and I just eat a lot of carrots to help me with that night vision thing. I don’t understand why all you people think that you need all of those crazy gadgets…

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Most vpeople crash because they understand nothing of vehicle dynamics and stand on the brakes when they should accelerate and steer around an obstacle my car has passive rearwheel steering you can turn it on and off with the throttle if you know how to drive and the car corners like nothing else on the road I easily catch BMWs on twisty roads but if you dont understand how it all works the tech is wasted

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No, most people crash because they do something risky. People who don’t do risky things (and this includes, eg, driving like it’s a summer day when it’s snowing, or driving at all in a blizzard).

      What saves drivers is not “Do I know how to double-clutch/throttle steer/counter-steer/go up on two wheels/etc”, it’s thinking “I’ll just hang back a little/drive more slowly/take the bus”.

      The “tech” is not wasted, not at all. It keeps the car from crashing when the driver does something stupid, or when they react to another driver doing something stupid. The kinds of drivers who crash will do it anyway—they always have, and they always will—and it’s technology that’s seeing accident rates decline.

      “Driver training makes things safer” people are like “tough on crime” people: both believe something that is proven not to work and, in fact, isn’t really needed**, over something that does work, because it goes counter to their intuition. What works is systemic prevention because, while you’ll never get a better grade of person, you can create circumstances where bad people are less likely to cause harm.

      ** Because both accident and crime rates have been falling steadily irrespective of training and punishment.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I had a learners permit for a year, earnerd after 18 hours of Drivers Ed on the road and about that many in the class room. Then I got my license in 1975, got a 72 Z-28 with no power steering, 4 speed, and all the popular hot rod crap at the time, stupid wide rear tires, headers with glass packs and air shocks. I hit the road and drive about 300 miles the first day, must have filled up twice too, but that driving without my folks making me nervous made me a better driver. I know I was lucky, I took dumb risks and almost lost the car by running off the road in a curve (great way to cure hemoroids) but by the grace of God I survived. Fast forward 35 years and I have a 16 year old daughter driving. Do you think i would put het in a piece of crap like I had? Hell no, I wanted the best, safe, air bagged and ABS, stability controled, etc I could get. I don’t know how good drivers ed is, I think it’s really up to the parents to teach, and set a good example. Aren’t we all a bit lazy and could do better driving? Yeah we could, so when you’re teaching your kids, remind yourself that you need to practice what you preach.

    All that said, I still want to take my daughter to the BMW driving school, I want to take it too. If you think that’s a waste of time, then F.. you – it’s my money and my time. I can’t see where learning better driving techniques will turn you into a chance taking, wannabee road racer, if you didn’t have that in you to begin with.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      +1. I’ll be taking a car control clinic later this year with my local BMW CCA chapter.

      Most of the survey groups in the AstraZeneca study cited above stem from motorists who had to attend traffic school due to traffic violations.

      The majority of those study groups did not consist of enthusiasts wanting to improve their driving skills. What I get from that study is that remedial traffic school won’t improve the driving skills of awful drivers (Therefore, I’d argue for more license suspension-based penalties to keep bad drivers off the road at least temporarily).

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        It studied both remedial and proactive education, and neither was (statistically) successful.

        That said, it’s statistics, so they show that policy decisions shouldn’t be made on the basis that postlicense education lowers crashes. Would it lower crash potential for you specifically? Maybe. Who the fuck knows? There’s too many variables there. In either case, you might find the class and the skills enjoyable, so go for it if you want.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      If you think that’s a waste of time, then F.. you – it’s my money and my time. I can’t see where learning better driving techniques will turn you into a chance taking, wannabee road racer, if you didn’t have that in you to begin with.

      It’s ironic that someone who has argued as strenuously as you have for education is incapable of learning a bloody thing from this thread.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I advise some of the posters here who are arguing for fail-safe fully automated cars to watch this Volvo press conference, featuring a new S60 sedan with automated brakes which supposedly avoid collisions.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Ahh, yes, I forgot that humans currently never crash their cars. Humans are clearly superior due to this prototype failing at a demonstration.

      At least you can go back through a robot’s programming to understand why it did what it did. A human… good luck reading through that ladder logic.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Road hazards other than the car in front of you are so rare, especially on the highway where these adaptive cruise control systems would be in play, that they would, over time, encourage a complacency that undermines safety

    I’m not sure about this. The kind of people who would benefit from BLIS/City Safety/ACC are the kind of people who would be inattentive behind the wheel of a Plymouth Valiant.

    These people are already unsafe. They text, apply makeup, read books, discipline their kids, phone Rush Limbaugh and/or make love while driving today. They always have and always will. Short of getting them off the road, putting them in cars with autonomous crash mitigation features is probably a good thing.

  • avatar
    SimonAlberta

    For those arrogant posters who think they are such good drivers that they are better off without ABS and the other “nannies”, be warned. Pride absolutely can go before a fall.

    20 years ago I was just like you. I could handle a car as well as anyone short of a professional rally driver. I was mature enough to have grown out of the “boy racer” style of driving and considered myself a very safe, competent driver who could handle just about anything the road could throw at me.

    Then one perfect fall driving day I made a tiny mistake. So small was the error that it barely qualifies as one. A micro-second’s lack of full application of my awesome skills and….BOOM….I’m upside down in a ditch with the A-pillar of my Honda where my head should be and my head in my groin. My neck was snapped and I’ve ridden a wheelchair ever since.

    If my car had had ABS or Stability Control I would not have even gone off the road.

    Please believe me when I tell you this….we are ALL better off with the new technology no matter how brilliant we may think we are.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “BOOM….I’m upside down in a ditch with the A-pillar of my Honda where my head should be and my head in my groin. ”

      Out of curiosity, what kind of Honda? 20 years ago, that probably means a 2100 pound Civic, CRX, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        SimonAlberta

        @Sam P

        I’m not going to answer your question because it is totally irrelevant to my point. Please don’t try to imply the Honda was the issue.

        The issue is that late 1980s technology didn’t save me but current technology certainly would have done.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        I’m just wondering because an uncle of mine drove a late 80′s Volvo 244 way too fast for conditions on a sub-freezing day in Washington State, hit a patch of ice, left the road, and flipped into a ditch at 50 mph, going literally end over end.

        Volvo safety won the day that time as he crawled out of a broken window with cuts and bruises. Unlike your Honda, the A-pillars held up (although the safety glass of the windshield shattered. How did I see all this? I was in a car behind him). Had my uncle been driving a small Honda or Toyota from that era, he may very well be dealing with far worse injuries to this day.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    What about in snow? Am I the only one who turns off all traction/stability control in the snow? I also want to turn off ABS but I cant. I would much rather control the car myself in snow conditions than have the computer assistance cause me problems.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Am I the only one who turns off all traction/stability control in the snow?

      Do you have 4 legs and 4 brake peddles?

      The ignorance of some people is just so staggering…. The stupid…it hurts!

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Actually in some cars you need to disable the tc in order to keep from overwhelming the system in deep snow. From the posts I’ve read on enthusiast blogs many drivers who have the older versions of traction control (the one’s that opperate off the braking system rather than controling the throttle and the brakes as many stystems do) disengage the tc to keep from cooking the brakes while trying to get out of deep snow when tire spinning is neccessary.

      • 0 avatar
        Pinzgauer

        I take it you have never driven in deep snow jmo.

        1) ABS takes longer to stop in deep snow in a straight line. Locking up all 4 will stop you faster.

        2) Many TC systems will cut power so much in deep snow that you cant get unstuck or up a hill without turning it off. Even in newer cars. Turning off TC in most cars I have seen also turns off stability control. In itself I wouldnt mind the stability control, but since it turns off with TC it doesnt help me.

        I have noticed that If you know how to drive in snow you can do much better yourself than with all of these systems activated. My .02.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Actually in some cars you need to disable the tc in order to keep from overwhelming the system in deep snow

        …if you don’t have snow tires and are too lazy to dig yourself out, yes. TC can prevent you from rocking the car. Of course, putting your floor mats under the tires will prevent you from having to do that in the first place.

        ESC, on the other hand, will cut power when motion. Enthusiasts hate this and claim that it’ll result in them getting hit if they’re, eg, making a left turn. This is an overblown concern because, in the kind of weather that could cause this, you ought not to be trying to gun through intersections like you would on a sunny summer’s day.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        1) ABS takes longer to stop in deep snow in a straight line. Locking up all 4 will stop you faster.

        This only applies if you’re driving in the kind of snow that allows you to build up a hill. It doesn’t apply to ice, rain, slush or pavement, which is where most people drive.

        Basically, this only applies to a very small number of drivers, and even then those drivers would benefit more from steering control.

        2) Many TC systems will cut power so much in deep snow that you cant get unstuck or up a hill without turning it off.

        This isn’t really true. There’s very few situations where TC retarding power (and wheelspin) will keep you from moving. TC was designed to prevent a wheel from spinning in the first place.

        You’d have to be in some trouble where wheelspin would help, and you’d be better (for the sake of your transmission) to just pull out your floor mats and put them under the tires and go.

        I have noticed that If you know how to drive in snow you can do much better yourself than with all of these systems activated. My .02.

        Most people don’t, never have, and never will. The fact is that these aids help more people than they hinder by a wide margin, and that for the marginal cases where they don’t, they’re pretty easy to circumvent.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Buy a set of strap chains or traction straps and call it done, if it’s that bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      1) Thats why I said deep snow. ABS is awesome in every other situation.

      2) Yes it is true. There are many instances where you need to maintain slight wheel spin to aid in traction (usually when its necessary to keep the tires “clean” for more bite, and this is true snow tires or not). A little wheel spin on a slippery surface will not harm a transmission if its not excessive and prolonged.

      And of course most people dont, my point is that for people who do these things are actually not helpful and sometimes a hindrance.

      • 0 avatar
        SimonAlberta

        @Pinzgauer

        I am having difficulty with this concept that there are MANY circumstances where spinning wheels HELPS in getting out of snow.

        I drive in the stuff 3 or 4 months of the year and in my experience the only time I might want to spin my tires is if I’m already bogged down in snow and it is soft enough that I might be able to “burn” through the snow to get to the tarmac and possible get enough traction to rock myself out of trouble.

        Pure physics just dictates that a spinning tire ALWAYS has less traction than one that isn’t.

        But, hey, if you can give examples that contradict my view then I’ll be glad to see them.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I started out in a defensive driving program, and even though I’ve made some bone-headed moves over the years, the one safety thing that sticks is car placement and safety in traffic. Whenever I drive with folks who haven’t gone through a similar program, it always makes me nervous because they don’t mind the gaps.

    ABS – I think I saw studies that said that in the early days, it did reduce the incidence of crashes caused by drivers, but was just as likely to be implicated in causing rear-enders for those drivers as well. Having hit sudden icy patches a few times, the one-second it takes for your brain to register the slide and to start threshhold braking can amount to a good number of tens of yards… I’ll gladly hand over that part of the safety equation to ABS.

    Traction Control – Sure, why not, it’s a cheap and easy feature to add.

    Stability Control – If you need it, you are either going to fast or you bought a vehicle that is too top heavy.

    Backup sensors/cameras – Increasingly necessary with the poor rearward visibility of today’s cars.

    Automated parking – An over indulgent feature that will probably be so effective and cheap in the far future that every car will eventually have it and consequently, nobody will know how to parallel park.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      @stuntmonkey

      I don’t completely agree with you about stability control. Technically yes, if it kicks in you MUST be going too fast for the conditions at that precise instant but, that said, we can often be driving quite sensibly but still be caught out by a sudden change or unexpected issue such as oil/sand/ice on the road we didn’t see or expect.

      So, even a world-class rally driver COULD benefit from SC under SOME scenarios so, overall, I think it is a good thing to have.

      Besides, all these safety aids are designed to help the 99% majority of drivers who don’t have a clue, nor care, about how to threshold brake etc.

  • avatar
    SimonAlberta

    I see I have posted too much already in this thread but one final comment if I may….it seems clear to me that skill and knowledge must play SOME part in staying safe so training simply CANNOT be totally useless….BUT….I think it is absolutely clear that it is driver ATTITUDE that is the biggest key in safety.

    If we all drove within our own capabilities (we ALL over-estimate our abilities) and within road and traffic conditions then MOST crashes (they are NOT accidents) could be avoided.

    Sadly, many, many people don’t do so, thus we continue to have carnage on the roads.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Locking the brakes also works better than ABS on most gravel road conditions. That’s why some “rugged” vehicles come with hill descent features, and/or an ABS setting for gravel.

    Keeping your foot in it will overcome the Traction Control’s use of ABS and throttle backoff in a couple of seconds. They’re engineered this way to avoid brake damage, for one thing. The consequence is wheelspin, wanted or not. The delay before deactivation can be a nuisance, though. Of course, many vehicles have a deactivation switch of some sort.

    An experiment this winter proved that our suv could climb a steep hill in deep, heavy damp untracked snow best in 4-high/AWD mode, rather than 4-high/locked or 4-low/locked. TC and SC are active in 4-high/AWD. It couldn’t make it up the hill in locked mode, coming to a halt with spinning tires and then sliding sidways. In normal driving mode (4-high/AWD), it seemed to think about it and clawed its way up. I was very surprised, but couldn’t argue with how clear the difference was.

    Some suggested SC activation is proof of incompetence. It could activate as you try to escape an emergency caused by someone else.


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