By on October 27, 2009

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77 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: What If We Didn’t Have Federal Safety Standards?...”


  • avatar
    CobaltFire

    For better or worse, we would have many more competitors in the Automobile production business. I tend to think we would have some interesting innovations if a startup did not require the massive amounts of funding that are required to design and certify around those regulations.

    This is not to say that those regulations are not a good thing; but they do seem to be getting out of hand and creating an insular market where only players who are already in or can get massive funding can play.

  • avatar
    Badger

    Instead of investing in more engineers, auto manufacturers would invest in more lawyers.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I’d drive an Ariel Atom (and a Caterham in bad weather).

  • avatar

    …and kill off CARB too.

    We’d be able to buy all those amazing, high-MPG, Euro-cars that we can’t buy here now, and I’d be a happy man.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    We would all be better drivers.

    Why? Because the bad drivers would all be dead.

  • avatar
    rnc

    We’d have cheaper cars and much higher insurance premiums (both car and medical). Would imagine that over the long run the insurance would kill any savings. I mean if you look at government involvement car safety regulations and government involvement in healthcare (medicaid/care), there isn’t that much of a lag.

  • avatar
    TZ

    Cars would be lighter, cheaper, faster, and deadlier.

    A lack of standards also would have led to fewer innovations. Automakers have created some impressive materials and technologies in the hunt for better, safer cars while (generally) keeping down overall weight and improving efficiency.

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    Cars would be lighter and more fuel efficient!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Cars would be lighter, cheaper, faster, and deadlier.

    I’ll give you faster, but even without much in the way of regulation, cars have tended towards heavy and expensive. Heavy and expensive are profitable.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Cars would be deathtraps. I mean seriously, they had to mandate headrests? From experience, it doesn’t take much of a collision throws one’s head back. I can only imagine what happened in the pre-headrest era.

  • avatar
    jaydez

    People would be (more) attentive on the road beacause in the event of an accident they know the car would kill them, not save them.

    I’m for a world like that.

  • avatar

    A while back you posted the video of the off-set front crash test between the 1959 Impala and the 2009 Malibu. Without all the regulations modern cars would probably be closer to the 1959 Impala. There would be exceptions. Mercedes introduced crumple zones in 1959 and was trying to build safer cars without any government mandate.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Two words; Tata Nano.

  • avatar
    TZ

    psarhjinian :
    October 27th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I’ll give you faster, but even without much in the way of regulation, cars have tended towards heavy and expensive. Heavy and expensive are profitable.

    It’s relative. Even large cars without mandated safety equipment would be lighter and cheaper than their non-regulated counterparts. If you don’t have to include four airbags and related hardware and software in your design, your car doesn’t cost as much to build and doesn’t weigh as much as a car without them.

  • avatar
    carve

    My first car was a 1991 S-10. Arguably, one of the least safe vehicles made in 91. My parents recommended it because it was cheap and they wanted a truck around. I think (hope?) if they had access to numbers about safety, and knew better, they wouldn’t have approved.

    Back in the 1950’s, public perception is that if a car had safety features like seat belts, it must be compensating for something and be inherently unsafe.

    When talking to people about cars, safety seldom comes up, and when it does it’s usually either a low priority, or based on bad assumptions (like safety is dependent on size and nothing else)

    The point: people don’t know crap about safety. If it doesn’t help sell cars, not many automakers would invest money in it. A lot more people would be dead. Of course, this is sort of protecting people from themselves which I have mixed feelings about. Then again, most people probably think of cars as equally safe, and regs just help make this closer to the truth. Also, those of us who make safety a priority wouldn’t have as many options.

  • avatar
    carguy

    There are very good reasons for regulating car safety more than other goods: An unsafe and defective car can kill you and it is beyond the average buyer to assess if a car is safe or not (particularly when they face the onslaught of manufacturer marketing).

    If a consumer cannot evaluate the risk they are taking by saving a few dollars then the market for cars would not be “free” (in the economist definition that perfect information is one of the assumptions of a free market).

    That is also why we regulate who can be a doctor or surgeon and who can fly a plane.

    And for those of you whose libertarian ideals are offended by such government intrusion:

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    If you don’t have to include four airbags and related hardware and software in your design, your car doesn’t cost as much to build and doesn’t weigh as much as a car without them.

    Airbags are not that massive, but a cheap, heavy and crude body-on-frame chassis certainly is.

    Much as we malign modern car’s safety-related weight, what we’d get, if GM (for example) had it’s way would be a Tahoe-based sedan made from pot-metal that weighed six thousand pounds. Remember that, before regulatory and economic pressures took hold, American cars were well on the way to being land barges.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Several thousand additional people would be stone cold DEAD, due to unsafe, and underengineered cars, period.

    The ONLY thing most auto manufacturers persue of their own volition is a PROFIT, and if some of the unwashed masses have to die behind the wheel..well, that’s too bad….we’d have roads full of the modern-day equivalents of exploding Pintos, ’60-63 swing-arm Corvairs, and ‘the driver IS the crumple zone’ VW Microbuses.

    Vehicular carnage.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “Cars would be deathtraps. I mean seriously, they had to mandate headrests?”

    No. Back in the early 90s, they did not mandate air-bags. The bags were optional in many cars, and the option became very popular. They mandated bags after it was hard to find a new car without them.

  • avatar
    carve

    LOL…I said…
    [i]When talking to people about cars, safety seldom comes up, and when it does it’s usually either a low priority, or based on bad assumptions (like safety is dependent on size and nothing else)[/i]

    and a few posts later, psarhjinian said…
    [i]Much as we malign modern car’s safety-related weight, what we’d get, if GM (for example) had it’s way would be a Tahoe-based sedan made from pot-metal that weighed six thousand pounds. Remember that, before regulatory and economic pressures took hold, American cars were well on the way to being land barges.[/i]

    Exhibit A, folks. Mass helps in a multi-vehicle collision all else being equal, but when all cars are heavy it buys you nothing, and buys you nothing in single-car collisions except for MORE energy to disappate. The design and features are more important.

    Ironically, many posters said cars would be much lighter without safety requirements.

  • avatar
    jmo

    if GM (for example) had it’s way would be a Tahoe-based sedan made from pot-metal that weighed six thousand pounds.

    HAH!!

    Also, people talk about the dead and that’s a tragedy. But, there would also be 100’s of thousands more left severly disabled.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Robert Schwart: “No. Back in the early 90s, they did not mandate air-bags. The bags were optional in many cars, and the option became very popular. They mandated bags after it was hard to find a new car without them.”

    But even in the early ’90s, either airbags or automatic seat belts had to be present.

  • avatar
    elloh7

    What If We Didn’t Have Federal Safety Standards?

    There would be alot fewer idiots on the road, in general, as a natural consequence of being killed off by their stupidity.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Cars would be cheaper and more people would die and/or be injured on the roads.

    “No. Back in the early 90s, they did not mandate air-bags. The bags were optional in many cars, and the option became very popular. They mandated bags after it was hard to find a new car without them.”

    Not true at all. During the transition period auto makers had a choice of those horrible motorized seat belts OR airbags. Massive numbers of cars came with those terrible rip-your-ear-off belts until the law changed to not make it an either-or option. The notion that the air bag requirement was but a rubber stamp approving what the buying public had already moved to is fantasy.

    “There would be alot fewer idiots on the road, in general, as a natural consequence of being killed off by their stupidity.”

    And a whole lot of dead and injured innocent victims of the stupid people. Very often the driver who causes the accident isn’t the one who gets the worst of it.

  • avatar
    JTParts

    It’s a tough question. Ultimately I think you would have choice. The market would really play a part in what path builders follow. Volvo for example always concentrated on safety, people that make that a priority would gravitate towards that brand.

    I like the idea of a lower hurdle for new comers. One of the big problems with the corporate landscape we have now is that the little guy can really never enter an established market.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Robert Schwartz: No. Back in the early 90s, they did not mandate air-bags. The bags were optional in many cars, and the option became very popular.

    If I recall correctly, the government mandated automatic passive safety restraints in vehicles. Air bags were one way of meeting this standard; motorized safety belts and the belts attached to the door (as on many GM cars of the early 1990s) were another two ways of meeting the standard.

    The public overwhelming preferred the air bags, so the government simply mandated that all vehicles have air bags. Customer preferences actually drove the final government mandate.

  • avatar
    TZ

    psarhjinian :
    October 27th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Much as we malign modern car’s safety-related weight, what we’d get, if GM (for example) had it’s way would be a Tahoe-based sedan made from pot-metal that weighed six thousand pounds. Remember that, before regulatory and economic pressures took hold, American cars were well on the way to being land barges.

    American cars have been land barges for decades. Some of them are *still* land barges. The oil crisis in the 70s had more to do with the initial shift to smaller, lighter cars than regs did. Ask Honda or Toyota.

    Regardless, a chunk of the mass of any current vehicle is because of increased regulations. Crash survivability, crumble zones, side-impact beams, airbags, TPMS, rollover protection, ABS, stability control, etc., have all necessitated design changes and not-insignificant increases in vehicle mass to make better, safer cars. I’m not sure why this is even in dispute.

  • avatar
    Seth L

    There would be some really sexy looking deathtraps on the road, and quite a few more 16 year old would never see 17.

    But man, I can’t stop thinking about how beautiful cars would look. Low beltlines would be back!

    Oh the practicality front, you could get 3-rows of seats in a mini cooper sized car.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    NickR:
    “I mean seriously, they had to mandate headrests? From experience, it doesn’t take much of a collision throws one’s head back. I can only imagine what happened in the pre-headrest era.”

    My mother can tell you–her car was rear-ended in the mid-60s, before any head restraint requirements. She had surgeries for some years, but still has pain to this day. My folks never got damages from the other driver either, because the state laws at the time mandated a unanimous verdict of fault, which we didn’t get if you can believe it.

    But even after head restraints were mandated, most of the ones out there were crap until about a decade ago. Plus, it’s my impression that head restraints aren’t worth much unless the seats themselves are attached securely to the vehicle floorpan. I suspect many cars on the road today still don’t get this right.

  • avatar
    Mark out West

    A lot of these safety features owe their existence to insane advances in semiconductor technologies. No processor, no ABS, airbag, traction control, adaptive cruise control, precise fuel injection, knock control, etc. While FMVSS did contribute a lot to safety, the role of available technology cannot be minimized.

  • avatar
    arapaima

    People in general don’t like to move unless prodded. It can take the form of how you finish work, organize, clean, or in this case, how you design cars. If there weren’t mandates I don’t think things would have changed much, sure you would have some updates in materials, design, etc. but the fundamentals would be very similar. What would worry me most about this kind of system isn’t my own driving, good or bad, getting me in trouble, but the driving of someone else. Passive safety helps reduce the impact of both your own and the other guy’s bad choices. And I’m perfectly happy sacrificing some things for it.

  • avatar
    MMH

    Volvo, as a legitimately differentiated product, would be in much better financial shape.

    I also choose to believe that the market would have pushed many of today’s safety enhancements – and perhaps additional or different ones that are more innovative – into the mass market.

  • avatar
    Mike S.

    Mass helps in a multi-vehicle collision all else being equal, but when all cars are heavy it buys you nothing, and buys you nothing in single-car collisions except for MORE energy to disappate.

    According to the IIHS, fatalities in single-car accidents also go generally down as mass goes up. From http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr4404.pdf :

    “The lower death rates in single-vehicle crashes of larger cars are because many objects that vehicles hit aren’t solid, and big, heavy vehicles have a better chance of moving or deforming the objects they strike. This dissipates some of the energy of the impact,” Zuby explains.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    People don’t care that much about safety anymore because the required standards make even the worst vehicle pretty darn safe.

    Way back when, if you wanted safe you had to choose it specifically. Now you get it in Jeep Wranglers and Mazda Miatas like you used to get it in Volvos.

    Then again, I have absolutely nothing to back this up at all.

    Rubbin’s racin’!

  • avatar
    wsn

    Initially, the fatality rate would be high. But after a while it will stabilize to even lower than the current rate.

    The less safe cars will have higher fatality rates. So there will be fewer repeat buyers, either because they are dead or they are scared.

    If we replace “safety” with “reliability”, we can see that no government intervention is needed to make cars better. Car buyers are intelligent enough. As a whole, they make the right decisions, over a long period of time.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think we would see a market a bit more like in Europe. European governments did not mandate anything like as much safety crap as what was manadated here, BUT the various crash test regimes stimulated buyer demand for the features anyway. Within the limits of what European buyers want, thier cars are just as safe as ours without a heavy-handed government mandate.

    But what REALLY needs to be done at this point is to have ONE set of standards for the civilized world, so that car makers only have to certify cars once. Same with emissions regs – ONE standard! Which we can’t seem to manage even within the US, given that we currently have TWO.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    This question is difficult to discuss productively because it is too vague. The answer depends on whether we mean “What if the U.S. didn’t have its own unique Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, but rather accepted cars built in accord with the UNECE 1958 Agreement containing the safety standards to which cars are built for most of the world outside North America?”, vs. if we mean “What if there were no safety standards whatsoever, and it was an anything-goes free-for-all?”.

    Robert Schwartz, you’re not correct. U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 was amended in the early 1990s to require airbags as a preëmptive regulatory push, not in response to airbag popularity. Your confusion on this point may arise from the time-limited transitional provisions written in to FMVSS 208 which permitted automatic seatbelts as an alternative to airbags.

    krhodes1, you are also wrong. The European ECE regulations are quite extensive. They regulate whole areas of vehicle design and construction left untouched under the U.S. regulations, such as pedestrian protection. The lists are different of what’s regulated and to what degree, but it’s flatly incorrect to claim that the European rules mandate “less safety crap”.

  • avatar
    Accords

    I hate to think the worst of people

    (Especially on rainy, windy days where its mostly dark, and NO ONE has lights or signals on)…

    But I still think we (as a nation) would continue to turn into a bunch of SUV / CUV drivin yahoos.. who sue anyone and or anything because some feature hurt their child.

    Either that..
    Or somehow the European way would make its way over here.. and the road would be filled with a mix of current European cars, 70s boats / muscle cars.. and ya average T/B, Toureg, Exploder and or Sante Fe clogging the streets..

  • avatar
    ultramatic

    Initially, the fatality rate would be high. But after a while it will stabilize to even lower than the current rate.

    The less safe cars will have higher fatality rates. So there will be fewer repeat buyers, either because they are dead or they are scared.

    If we replace “safety” with “reliability”, we can see that no government intervention is needed to make cars better. Car buyers are intelligent enough. As a whole, they make the right decisions, over a long period of time.

    I would like to know how you can make this claim. Even if this were true, your caveat “over a long period of time” will allow a lot of innocent people to die needlessly because there were no standards by which to judge the safety of the car they are driving. I consider myself fairly well informed on the subject of occupant safety because I work in the industry, but the amount of public information and transparency regarding vehicle safety could easily get muddled by unsubstantiated marketing claims and make it more difficult for even well-educated consumers to make the right decisions.

    I understand that over time the unsafe cars might be winnowed out, but are we to assume that those initial incremental fatalities were simply on the short end of the economic calculus used to acheive the perfect capitalist utopia?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    To answer the question, I’d pose another one:

    We’d have more money to spend on driver training and actual removal of bad drivers from the roads?

    I can dream, can’t I?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Domestic automakers fought every suggested safety innovation. While the Japanese were calling their engineers, the Detroit-3 were lining up their lobbyists, lawyers and the captive press. They had to be legislated into doing the right thing.

    Regardless, we have reached the point of diminishing returns. Safety innovations that seemed like a good idea but fell short, like the Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL), cannot be eliminated.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Oh yeah..

    The CHMSL is another straw that aggravates me…

    The domstics put the third light into the trunk lid..

    Where as Honda and Toyota NTM Volvo put it either on the rear shelf.. or (in Vo’s case) actually had the foresight to tuck it into the top of the rear headliner!

    That… is real thought!

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Some manufacturers would differentiate themselves by safety.
    Driving law and enforcement would also be tilted much more toward safety than revenue. And I wager there would be a degree of harshness in dangerous driving offenses that would make a Singapore cop proud.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I also choose to believe that the market would have pushed many of today’s safety enhancements – and perhaps additional or different ones that are more innovative – into the mass market.…

    No way. History proves that without a push, it simply didn’t happen. GM fought every standard with every resource at its disposal. Volvo was the exception, and marketed its signature safety systems. Market penetration was pretty damn small…

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    @Gardiner Westbound:
    Safety innovations that seemed like a good idea but fell short, like the Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL)

    Your statement is not correct; the safety benefit of the CHMSL has proven to be significant, substantial, robust, and enduring. Not just in the U.S., but also in Europe, Australia, Japan, and virtually the whole rest of the world.

    @Accords:
    The domstics put the third light into the trunk lid.

    Mmm…no. The CHMSL was mandated for 1986.

    The 1986 Taurus, Sable, Clown Victoria, Grand Marquis, Caprice, Monte Carlo, Cadavalier, Celebrity, Cutlass, DeVille, Aries, Reliant, LeBaron and Lancer, amongst many other domestic vehicles, had the CHMSL mounted inside the car, peering rearward through the backglass. Same in ’87. And ’88. And ’89. And…spend a few minutes doing Google image searches, plee-uz.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Jesus…
    I just remembered…

    If it werent for Nader…

    Seat belts wouldnt be around.. no matter how much he complained…

    Not to mention auto up and down windows…

    And the Corvair..
    For all we know it could have been GMs best selling vehicle.. if it werent for those pesky kids!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    If it were a matter of individual choice, I would be fine with eliminating safety regulations. My expectation is that yes, there would be more Ariel Atoms and Dune Buggies on the road, but that a lot of folks would still want the safest vehicle they could afford. Private certifying entities (e.g. IIHS) would arise to give the public sufficient info to make rational decisions.

    But the problem is that any yahoo could stuff a turbo Hemi into an X1/9 and go thrill racing on public streets, killing the innocent. No thanks.

  • avatar
    Accords

    SherbornSean:
    IIHS isnt just a pvt agency…

    These yahoos are operated by the insurance industry.

    Nothing I love more than being told what to buy, by the same people who are going to charge me for what I buy.

    IIHS… is a total sham.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insurance_Institute_for_Highway_Safety

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a U.S. non-profit organization funded by auto insurers. It works to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes, and the rate of injuries and amount of property damage in the crashes that still occur. It carries out research and produces ratings for popular passenger vehicles as well as for certain consumer products such as child car booster seats.[1]

  • avatar
    210delray

    So what makes IIHS a sham? Just because it’s funded by the evil insurance industry?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Accords,
    I simply meant to suggest that there would be independent, non-governmental entities that would evaluate auto safety, filling the void left by the government.

    But I am with 210delray. I think it’s important to remember that the IIHS is funded by insurers, but in general their goals are in line with mine: to reduce losses from auto accidents, especially those involving personal injury.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    It’s easy to discuss this with academic detachment, but at some point you can’t and still be discussing the whole issue.

    I assume everyone’s friends and loved ones are excellent and extremely defensive drivers? No? Then many of them have been in accidents? Yes? Without safety regulations, some of them would be dead.

    Now, that’s not per se an effective argument for constantly improving safety regulations, since the visible effect is much smaller, but I don’t really see any downside. Cars are more expensive, yes, but also more reliable than ever, so the used market is huge and almost anyone with a job to drive to can afford a car if they really need one (and don’t waste their money on lottery tickets and cigarettes). They’re even still benefiting from safety, since it brings down the price of insurance across the board.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Sherborn:

    The IIHS only mission..

    Is to make you buy a vehicle THEY consider to be “safe” based on the tests and situations THEY put the cars into.

    You buy their cars..
    And they are happy…

    Because..YOU listened / gave a shit about what they have to say.

    Instead of actually buying a car that suits your specific needs.. instead of how the vehicle tests in their ratings.

    SO in the end..
    The rating of the vehicle you buy, is COMPLETELY TILTED on what they think you should be charged.

  • avatar
    Michal

    Some people seem to assume that removing safety features from cars would remove stupid or careless drivers too. They would be the first to die out, leaving the superior drivers behind.

    What people choose to ignore is that the superior uber driver could be t-boned by someone else at an intersection. A lack of side intrusion beams and air bags would greatly increase the chance of death. The superior driver could be hit head on by an idiot traveling in the opposite lane who falls asleep at the wheel, leaving the superior driver dead due to a lack of seat belts, air bags, and crumple zones. The superior driver could be hit from behind while stopped at a red light, and since there are no safety standards no one would care if the fuel tank ruptured and caught on fire.

    It’s a strange quirk of human psychology that most people consider themselves to have an above average driving ability. Mathematically, that obviously is impossible. Many accidents are not a ‘choice’, or where the person who dies or is seriously injured is always at fault.

  • avatar

    health care related costs would be far more expensive because of all the maimings and especially all the head injured people who would require perpetual nursing care.

    A number of years ago, probably the early 80s, a family friend, an eminent professor of demography at Harvard, was head injured in a car accident. That was the end of his career. In fact, it was basically the end of his life. He survived for around a decade after that, but he was very mentally disabled. His wife became his (very devoted) caregiver for the rest of his life, or he probably would have been institutionalized.

  • avatar

    Volvos would be really hot sellers in New England and on the West Coast. I’m sure I’d be driving one. Probably most of the people I know would be driving Volvos.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Accords,
    Hang on there. I bought my car (an Accord by the way) due to a variety of factors. Safety is one, but I didn’t take the IIHS as gospel. I also checked out US government’s ratings, NCAP, as well as scores from actual loss experiences.

    I think the IIHS does good work, but like anything, you have to take their ratings with a grain of salt, understanding their biases.

    Just like you have to with anything you read. By the way, I love my Accord, and I’m not just saying that because I own stock in HMC.
    ;-)

  • avatar

    Accords :
    Jesus…
    I just remembered…
    If it werent for Nader…

    Gore would have been president

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Full roll cages (or safety cells), monocoques, helmets, drug-interlocks, further lane separation, lower speeds and round-a-bouts are the future but will we accept it?

  • avatar

    Forgive me for a thread deflection, but I’d like to see some discussion of this related question:

    What if the US regulatory regime included something like the Japanese kei-car, based on some combination of maximum mass, engine displacement and power? Such a vehicle could easily be safer, more comfortable and more useful than a motorcycle of the same power, while giving its operator at least some protection from collisions. Some sort of additional DRL (such as a roof-mounted line of LEDs, visible from both front and rear) could make these intermediate vehicles more visible, allowing them to be differentiated from their regular car brethren and sistren.

    The benefits of such an intermediate vehicle designation are obvious; they would be both safer than motorcycles and more efficient than regular cars. OTOH, such a vehicle could easily fall prey to the battlecruiser problem: if it looks like a regular car, people will use it like a regular car, even if it isn’t meant to protect its occupants like a regular car.

    Comments?

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Perhaps it’s worthwhile to point out that earlier this year the automotive world commemorated the 50th anniversary of the car seat belt’s introduction, by Volvo. IIRC, within a year there were Volvos and Saabs that had available seat belts and even head restraints. Unibody vehicles were also being developed, again mostly in Europe.

    So, I tend to agree with others who have said that certain car lines would have evolved to be safe. But not necessarily because it was imposed by the US market, and certainly not because it was going to be introduced by Detroit.

  • avatar

    @ bill h.
    In less than a year it will be the 50th anniversary of my parents’ putting seatbelts in the ’57 Chevy.

    SherbornSean: By the way, I love my Accord, and I’m not just saying that because I own stock in HMC.
    ;-)

    Me too, and me too.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    David Holzman :
    October 27th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Accords :
    Jesus…
    I just remembered…
    If it werent for Nader…

    Gore would have been president

    Nader should have been cryogenically frozen next to Walt Disney’s head a year before the election.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If the federal safety standards we take for granted never came to be, the Japanese and Europeans would be even more influential in our market.

    Unlike the Big Three, they were (mostly) willing to engineer more safety, durability and reliability into cars on their own, for the sake of making a better product. Detroit had to be cowed into doing so by Congress.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    If the federal safety standards had never occurred, US cars would be little better than the 1959 Chevy BelAir which, when impacting a 2009 Malibu, collapsed like a tin can being stepped on.

    Granted, government regulations can be overzealous, but before them, save in a few overseas cars, Auto Safety just wasn’t happening in the USA.

    Meanwhile, USA Driver Ed schools has not improved driver training all that much since the ’60’s.
    The racing schools enthusiasts say will solve driver Ed problems are wildly expensive, and training only go so far to avoid drivers distracted with Texting, Cel Phones, DVD and other auto entertainment.

    I’m grateful my 2009 vehicle is engineered with safety standards in mind, because there are distracted or badly trained fools that just may avoid my attempts to keep them from plowing into me.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Not sure the lack of federal safety standards would make as big a difference as people think. You’d still have the IIHS and other private-sector “nanny forces” at work. Eliminating lawyers would probably make a bigger difference.

    As long as safety sells, we will have safety features. And we will probably be worse drivers for it.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Based loosely on his comments in the “Chevrolet Launches Cruze” article on page 11 and 12 of the December 2008 issue of “Automotive Engineering,” an SAE publication…

    Peter Mertens, Global Vehicle Line Executive for Compact Cars would immediately delete the small reinforcements that tie the “B” pillar into the roof and floor pans on the Cruze that dramatically increase side crash safety. The car fails the side crash standard without them.

    He would then use General Motor’s Microsoft Power Point site license and, using GM guidelines, produce a 33-slide deck showing the $3-per-car savings would save the company approximately 1.784 Billion dollars per year.

  • avatar
    carve

    Maybe, instead of regs, they should’ve just had REALLY comprehensive crash testing. The numbers would then be correlated to the liklihood of various types of accident. Then, right on the window sticker in bigger numbers of mpg, you’d have numbers on the car representing the probability of you dying/having serious injury in that car in 100k city and hwy miles, and a combined average, just as they do with mpg. If safety were easier to understand like that, the consumer would be well informed and there’d be serious demand for safety.

    Oh yeah- and don’t be surprised if driving helmets are commonplace in 15 years.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Cars need to be built to safety standards. That being said,my cars dont have air bags.
    They have well engineered crumple zones and 4 wheel power disk brakes. Common sense and some more experience. I’ve been hanging with a group of fellow BMW E 28 enthusuiasts for nearly 10 yrs. Only one car related death in that time. The guy wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and got ejected. Plenty crashes, most walked away, some even drove away. Aint skeered

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    Aurich tech

    That is a good idea. It’s already happened by stealth with the Aptera, why not formalise it?

    I don’t know what to set as an acceptable crash performance – seatbelts obviously.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Your so called safety standards is just a big pile of red tape.
    It´s purpose is to create a trade barrier.
    The EU safety standards is sufficient.
    Anyway, the free market takes pretty much care of this problem.
    Who wants to buy a death trap?
    Who wants to drive a death trap?
    Who wants to buy your used death trap?

  • avatar
    wsn

    ultramatic :
    October 27th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I would like to know how you can make this claim. Even if this were true, your caveat “over a long period of time” will allow a lot of innocent people to die needlessly because there were no standards by which to judge the safety of the car they are driving. I consider myself fairly well informed on the subject of occupant safety because I work in the industry, but the amount of public information and transparency regarding vehicle safety could easily get muddled by unsubstantiated marketing claims and make it more difficult for even well-educated consumers to make the right decisions.

    —-
    1) “Unsubstantiated marketing claims” do exist, with or without government regulation on anything.

    2) There are factual statistical information on car safety and death rate available. You would know if a car (at least previous models) is relatively safe. And our access to that information depends on the government “disclosing information”, but not on the government “forcing car makers to design in a certain way.”

    3) People make choices and they are not “innocent”. By making the choice of buying a less safe car, they gain in other areas. Maybe it’s a cheap car, so the buyer saves money that improves his well being in other areas. Maybe it’s a sports car, so the buyer finds more and better mates, etc. You get the idea. Overall, the car buyer didn’t lose anything by buying a less safe car. It was his choice and his supposedly intelligent trade off.

    One size doesn’t fit all. Bill Gates probably would be better off driving a very safe car. But an young Indian cannot afford that kind of car. For him, it’s either a unsafe Nano (by NA standards) or no car at all. He would get a better job and a better wife, if he buys the Nano, instead of either walking or bankrupt himself by buying a very safe Lexus LS.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Speaking of Best and Brightest, Robert McNamara introduced the Lifeguard safety package in the 1956 Fairlane, with seatbelts and strategic padding. They killed it after one year, due to poor sales. According to the Nader biography “An Unreasonable Man”, Chevy actually threatened a price war against Ford if they didn’t kill the safety option.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifeguard_%28Automobile_safety%29

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    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.

  • avatar
    TomH

    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.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

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

  • avatar

    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

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