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Monday, June 25, 2007

Driver's Training

I really thought a recent story on a car that could park itself was either a joke or some engineer with way too much time on his hands. It still is not clear why a “self parking” option is a safety item other than getting some incompetent moron off the street and into a parking spot before the guy behind him yanks him out of his car and gives him some incentive to learn how to park.

Which brings me to the seat belt/airbag/side airbag/roll over protection/crumple bodies/yada, yada, yada safety features offered on newer autos. Our new cars are so safety top heavy, if we were to roll back the maximum speed limit to 55mph today, it would be almost impossible to die in an auto accident tomorrow.

Which brings me to my driver training classes almost 40 years ago. Defensive driving was the first and foremost lesson taught in those classes which seems so superfluous today. In those days, being cautious wasn’t enough. Being very, very afraid was the first line of defense against an accident. Keeping appropriate distances between yourself and vehicles ahead, slowing for turns and looking both ways at intersections were the foundations of safe driving.

But today, with all the safety features, what’s the point of defensive driving? Someone gets in your way and blam, you lay into the sucker and get your attorney on the cell phone before the tow truck arrives. Why worry about the car? It’s not only replaceable, but the cars driven by middle America today have about the same potential of being a classic as Rosie O’Donnell has of being a runway model.

The point of this exercise is that being a good driver has taken a back seat to safety features. Today’s driving is complicated by cell phones, PDAs, Big Macs and Lattes, which provide distractions unheard of forty years ago. But the predictable outcome is that some motorists are depending on safety features instead of driving skills to save their sorry butts, when the rubber leaves the road.

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