I’ve always thought that if the car companies and regulatory bodies out there wanted to make a safer car it wouldn’t be too difficult.
The first thing they could do is take out the seats, more comfortable than any couch I’ve ever owned, and put in a flat bench bent at the same angle as those uncomfortable school desks designed to combat scoliosis. They would take out the deluxe stereo with 16 speakers and put in a simple radio with two crappy speakers that squelch, buzz and give off the occasional burst of static. Instead of heat, drivers could merely choose between different levels of bracing cold.
Manufacturers would install wiper nozzles on the inside as well as out to spray water in the driver’s face occasionally, an optical scanner that buzzes every time you take your eyes off the road, and an antenna would cancel out any cell phone signals.
Every car would have a maximum speed of 100 km/h, and take a full minute to get up to that velocity. There would be no blind spots, and electrodes built into your steering wheel would give you an electrical shock if you tried to merge without doing a shoulder check or were tailgating the car in front of you. The ignition, it goes without saying, would be hooked up to a breathalyzer, and every car would have a black box that lets investigators show just who was at fault for every accident.
It would take all the fun out of driving, but driving isn’t really supposed to be fun. Driving is a conveyance, a convenient and quick way to get from A to B with room to spare for friends, family and groceries. This idea pushed by the manufacturers that cars are entertainment, liberation, fashion statement, and personal expression (you get to drive the way you want), is pure insanity. Something like eight and a half people are killed and 600 injured every single day on Canadian roads. Most of those accidents happen for stupid reasons — speeding, drinking and driving, not checking over your shoulder, and not paying attention because the driver is eating/drinking/talking on a cell phone/playing with the radio.
The problem with cars has always been the people driving them. Putting a flighty teenager with a cell phone and the attention span of a puppy at the wheel of a 7,000 pound SUV is nothing short of reckless endangerment. Ditto giving licenses to advanced senior citizens with cataracts and a tendency to black out if they forget to take their heart medication.
I’m not picking on anybody, I’ve been that flighty teenager and I hope one day to be that senior citizen, but I just think it’s crazy we’ll give anything as potentially dangerous as a driver’s license to anybody who can tell the difference between a yield sign and a stop sign on the written test, and can parallel park with the instructor in the car on a day when everyone is on their best behaviour.