Ask the Best and Brightest: What If We Didn't Have Federal Safety Standards?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 30, 2009

    The roads would prob look alot liek the southern Italian roads did when I lived there. There was a mix of light duty vehicles (Piaggio Apes and other motorcycle powered utility vehicles), automobiles and HD transport like buses and trucks. Cars ranged from the Citroen 2CV to Mercedes according to one's needs and economics. People were VERY aware of the ability of their car to take a hard hit in a crash and thus were VERY aware of what was going on. Despite the insanity of the roads there were still "rules". Nobody passed on the right. Large HD vehicles were restricted to a lower speed on the Autostrada than cars. The left lane was reserved for passing QUICKLY b/c there was a good chance a FAST sedan would come along any moment. Flashing to pass in the left lane meant get the hell out of the way NOW b/c the dude might be running triple digit speeds. A left blinker left on in the left lane meant he was running hard and fast. As a driver of a 40HP aircooled Beetle it was CLEAR what the rules were and why they were in place. When I moved up to a 90HP Rabbit 'vert (same as GTI suspension and driveline wise) we'd run 110 mph and again play by the very strict rules of the road. In the city folks drove by the largest vehicles had the right away ALL the time. A person didn't play chicken with a city bus while driving a Fiat 500 (the original 2cylinder version with ~18 HP). You slowed down and got out of the way. Every time. We ran yellow lights, slowed down before we ran red lights and we all knew if we broke the relatively unenforced traffic rules that we'd be in big trouble. The guy speeding was at fault no matter whether the other guy did something illegal and stupid. People drove what they could afford. That might have been a rusty Fiat 126 or a brand new Lancia Delta or a big BMW. And few people had troubles. I often drove a friend's aged 2CV and did not feel any more unsafe than in my Beetle (pretty large vehicle by comparison to other cars like the Mini). By comparison IMMEDIATELY on return to the states I could no fathom driving alot of those pediestrian little European cars that to this day admire and aspire to own like the original 500 and 2CV. Of course I returned to the states in the mid 90s during the hey-days of the SUV craze which still hasn't faded away. %#$^@*&!!! Yeah if there were no safety rules we'd prob have triple the selection of cars to choose from (imports) and Detroit's cars would REALLY be total crap b/c they have seldom if ever evolved unless the Gov't prodded them to. I wouldn't care and I'd likely be in line for a Volvo or big VW or even a Fiat which I would drive very, very carefully. When traffic is as dense as Naples and chaotic and potentially unsafe, trains make alot of sense. However it does make for a freer society. You live and die by your own choices. Resources like Consumer Reports and NCAP become more important when the gov't only mandates very relaxed minimum standards. Believe it or not I wouldn't mind seeing our standards relax a little and allow more competition into the states. We'd get lighter and more frugal cars to choose from. It would likely kill Detroit though. I think their days are numbered though b/c they won't make an effort to market consistently to people like me who likes Hondas and VWs. They make a stab at it occasionally (ASTRA) but it is seldom long lived. Had the Astra been longer lived I'd have bought one eventually. If cars were truly "unsafe" by current standards we'd likely see them all move towards unsafe together and which would make them equally unsafe or equally safe - however you want to look at it. I'd be more interested in pursing the cars with refined dynamic standards not necessarily crash standards. I mean I want a car that stops and turns as well as takes a hard hit. NOT like the always bloated run of SUVs which can take a hit but not avoid it.

  • TomH TomH on Nov 02, 2009

    The Federal (i.e. Provincial US) regulations no longer make much sense in light of the global automotive marketplace. Given the global nature of the car biz and the failure of our domestic regs to protect the US auto industry, it's probably time to join the rest of the world in adopting the European environmental and safety regs. The costs of maintaining and complying with proprietary US regulations at this point in history are simply non-value-added expense.

  • Cheezeweggie Cheezeweggie on Nov 02, 2009

    The lawyers would make even more money with the additional wrongful death lawsuits.

  • JK43123 JK43123 on Nov 03, 2009

    We'd all be driving Chinese cars! Actually, I have to disagree with the argument that the market demands safety like it has demanded reliability. Reliability is more concrete, i.e., if my car lasts longer I can see it happen. Safety is more abstract, i.e., many people I know have never been in a serious accident, many say "I am a good driver so I don't need that," etc. John