If you’ve never experienced the fearful frustration of backing your car out of a space in the one of the KSU parking garages, worried that some jerk driver would careen his or her car into yours, you’re probably one of the jerks. Or you’re one of the pedestrians ducking and running toward the stairwell, terrified someone texting while driving might miss seeing you.
Radio personalities engage in heated discussions about gun control while student commuters drive to campus, gritting their teeth in traffic; the thought of ‘car control’ jokingly comes to mind. Why doesn’t someone bring up the idea that a car can—and often does—act as a death machine? And when they are wielded by impatient drivers, aren’t we are all at risk?
According to “Buckle up! The most dangerous cars in the US,” published by NBCnews.com, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety established four rating categories for determining which vehicles perform best and which will best protect the driver. One of these categories is a side-impact crash test in which a 3,300 lb. ‘SUV-like’ object strikes the driver side at 31 mph.
Is it possible that a Hummer driven by a stressed-out soccer mom who is late dropping her kids off to daycare at 8 a.m. is more deadly than an AR-15? Do we really need cars that can exceed speeds, even halfway, past where the speedometer points to? Some speedometers go to 140 mph, but when is it ever safe to drive so fast on public roads and highways?
Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports fewer fatalities resulting from car crashes in 2010 than in 2005, and the fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was seven times higher in 1952 than in 2010, safety measures and technological advances may be responsible, and not the drivers nor the death machines they manage. Perhaps we would less likely be killed in a crash.
Crashes seem more likely when a person who is in a hurry because he or she lacks time management, but manages a V8 engine, finds themselves stuck behind someone who simply isn’t driving fast enough. Motorcyclists, cars and even trucks are guilty of weaving in and out of traffic, darting around, just to end up two cars ahead at the next red light.
The problem that cannot be solved by government intervention lies in the fact that we are all human. We love our powerful toys, and we want so much out of life that we try to cram 33 hours of activities, studies and work into a 24-hour day. Then we speed down the highway to make up for the fact that we left the house too late because we could not tear ourselves away from Facebook in time to beat traffic.
Automation answers and assuages the fear of those who park as close to the parking deck exit as possible, hoping to reduce the time spent among other drivers hurriedly looking for spaces.
When we automate our cars so that they drive themselves, we find a safer and more reliable system in place. We will no longer need insurance because the question of who’s to blame in a crash is answered the same way we investigate subway crashes. We have the technology; we need lawmakers to catch up on deciding the issues of liability.
We take our lives into our hands each time we travel by car or motorcycle, and we buy insurance to protect against the risk. The insurance companies will most likely try to stall progress by confusing people with the need to find fault for future failures, but the reality is that technology and innovation are advancing toward automation and a system where everyone drives an automated car will be as safe as a subway.
Dan Strumpf of The Wall Street Journal wrote in his Jan. 27 article, “Auto makers trumpet the potential safety benefits of driverless cars, saying they could ease traffic jams and react to hazards more quickly that drivers can.”
Within our lifetimes, we students should sit in automated cars that allow us to finish our homework on the way to class without risking a fatal crash or even risking spilling our coffee. Until then, let’s calm down while driving because our efficient cars are as dangerous as assault weapons and will never be regulated by government.