Yesterday, TTAC’s daily news editor Aaron Cole wrote an editorial calling for a new Ralph Nader to arise and save us from our own refusal to make appropriate safety-related automotive choices. I found the article fascinating, not least because one of my first editorials for TTAC was a skeptical look at the benefits of so-called “advanced driver training”. In that editorial, I argued that the decision to purchase a safe car was far more critical to crash survivability than any amount of special training would be. I then proceeded to prove my own point by selling my Phaetons, buying a Lincoln Town Car, and experiencing an incident (direct, high-speed perpendicular impact to my passenger door) that would have been trivial in said Phaetons but which was crippling in the aforementioned Town Car.
Since then, my thoughts on road safety have primarily centered around the idea of risk reduction. I believe that if you cancel or modify your riskiest trips, you’ll see tangible benefits from doing so. I don’t put my son in the car with me unless I have a specific agenda in mind to minimize risk from that trip. My goal is to reduce his exposure, which means no unnecessary trips, no bad-weather trips, and no trips without a plan.
On the other hand, this past year I put about half of my commuting mileage on motorcycles. That tilts my overall risk profile pretty far away from “safe”. It has, however, allowed me a front-row seat for all sorts of traffic incidents and accidents, playing out in full widescreen all around me.
For those reasons, I’m inclined to disagree with Aaron a little bit when it comes to the role of the government and/or quasi-governmental activists to improve vehicle safety. I’ll explain.