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"Automakers looking at pedestrian safety"

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  • mdh6214
    ...i kid you not. a headline on page 1D of today s Tallahassee Democrat. article to follow, my comments are enclosed in _underscores_. When I read this, let me
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 11, 2002
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      ...i kid you not. a headline on page 1D of today's Tallahassee
      Democrat. article to follow, my comments are enclosed in
      _underscores_.

      When I read this, let me just say that I came close to letting out a
      scream followed by an hour-long rant in an extremely loud voice,
      but I did not want my roommate to think that I had gone crazy.

      URL: http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/democrat/2821056.htm

      *clip*

      A major U.S. daily recently ran a story about automakers who are
      working to make their vehicles more "pedestrian-friendly."
      They're doing this by making technical changes to cars to help
      protect pedestrians in the event of an auto-pedestrian collision.

      Never mind that there are relatively few pedestrian fatalities:
      5,000 in the United States in 1999. Japan, which has less than
      half as many people as the United States, had a reported 3,000
      pedestrian deaths in the same year, and Western Europe had
      7,000. To help put this into perspective, there are almost 50,000
      driver and passenger fatalities in America every year.

      _Relatively few, huh? That's more than the death toll from the
      terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001._

      Ideally, there would be fewer auto-related fatalities, but we all
      know that modern life does have its trade-offs. Injuries resulting
      from human error are inevitably one such trade-off, and when
      they involve machinery that weighs several tons, the effects can
      be disastrous.

      _Modern life, huh? I guess that's what makes urban transport
      slower, more expensive, and more dangerous than it was 80
      years ago, huh? Anyway, Americans I've spoken with who have
      been to Europe consider European passenger trains some of
      the most modern things they've ever seen._

      Carmakers are reportedly looking into redesigning their vehicles'
      front ends, and even adding external air bags that would be
      deployed on contact. Such front-end changes could mean no
      more heavy grilles, known as "cow bars," on cars. For dedicated
      SUV off-roaders, that could be a real problem. They want
      something to protect their hoods and engines in extreme
      situations. Of course, most people with such fancy grilles never
      go off-roading, and the bars serve only as a stylish
      enhancement.

      _"Dedicated SUV off-roaders?" Unless you live on 20 acres in
      the middle of nowhere and drive a 1970s Land Rover, you
      probably aren't really driving off-road. And flat dirt roads and
      parking areas don't count; a Honda Civic can tackle a dirt road
      like it's nothing. Anyway, my $250 Diamondback mountain bike
      can do hills like no SUV can, and can come back undamaged.
      Anyway, despite such suggested improvements, "cow bars" will
      still be added, since they, for the most part, don't come with the
      vehicle._

      Automakers have generally done a pretty good job on safety
      features - although they once had to be prodded by outspoken
      consumer groups and eventually by the federal government.
      They've added safety belts, soft dashes, air bags and a lot of
      performance enhancements that make cars handle better (ABS,
      anti-skid systems, brake interlocks tied to transmissions to
      prevent inadvertent shifting, ignitions that won't function without
      your foot on the brake, and more).

      _Ralph Nader was one of the people who threw an early fit about
      auto safety. While I support federal laws to make vehicles safer
      in crashes and crash avoidance, I also think that lowering auto
      use is the best way to reduce crash fatalities. Limit auto use to
      small towns and rural areas and watch fatalities take a
      nosedive. By the way, a lot of those features, like park-brake
      interlock, are "idiot-proof" features, and assume an automatic
      transmission--popular mainly in the USA._

      How far should carmakers go in the name of safety? If safety is
      our sole criteria, then no one should get in a car - or on a bicycle
      for that matter - without a full set of hockey goalie pads, a football
      helmet and facemask. Redesigning cars for pedestrian safety
      seems to take responsibility out of the hands of drivers and
      pedestrians and put it on automakers. Driver and pedestrian
      education, and the enforcement of drunken-driving laws, would
      be much better ways of reducing pedestrian fatalities.

      _I support extensive driver education. I support tough DUI laws. I
      support big honkin' fines and prison time if you cause a death
      with a car. In Florida, I can get a driver license with no formal
      training in driving and no driving test. Residents of Europe,
      speak up now: aren't you blessed with tough mandatory driver
      training classes and tough DUI laws? How many DUI fatalities
      does Europe have?_

      Speaking of safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is
      planning side-impact crash testing that involves slamming a
      4,200-pound barrier (simulating an SUV) into various smaller
      cars. Surely the smaller cars will not do well. Smaller objects
      generally get obliterated when smacked by larger ones. It's a
      matter of physics.

      What does the institute hope to prove? The intent is to
      demonstrate the effectiveness of side-impact air bags,
      particularly for the prevention of head injuries. Many consumers
      apparently decide against optional side-impact air bags
      because of the additional cost. The Insurance Institute for
      Highway Safety thinks that once buyers know how effective
      side-impact air bags can be, they'll take a deep breath and get
      the upgrade.

      Women - or at least people of smaller stature- reportedly are
      more likely to suffer head injuries in side crashes. This is
      because they are generally lower in their seats and therefore
      absorb more direct force in a side-impact crash. The new tests
      will use 5-foot crash-test dummies. It's possible that cars could
      be redesigned to absorb greater impacts. On most of today's car
      bodies, the greatest strength is at the rocker panel level - about
      shin high. A greater level of strength higher on a vehicle could
      offset side-impact forces.

      It will be interesting to see how the test results affect car
      designs.

      *clip*

      In conclusion, "pedestrian safety features" in cars are another
      band-aid patch on a larger problem. Anyway, if such feature is
      optional, noone will get it. The new Honda Civic and Accord
      come with side air bags, and a dealer told me that practically
      noone asks for them. Reducing car-pedestrian interaction, ie,
      closing urban streets, is the only real way to do it.

      Anyone willing to rant back?
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