A Driving Concern

“The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it.” – Dudley Moore

You’ve no doubt heard about the latest feature that automobile manufacturers have in the works – a car that drives itself. While I heartily applaud any effort to improve safety on the road, I’m somewhat uncertain about this most recent innovation.

First of all, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I actually enjoy driving and have always hoped to go back to owning a car with a standard transmission. Call me archaic if you like, but there is nothing more satisfying than cruising down the highway, deftly shifting gears and being in complete control of your vehicle.

I have to admit that I do enjoy many engineering advances that have been introduced over the years. Cruise control is a plus at times since I tend to have a heavy foot (especially when I am singing along to a favourite song), and this feature has probably saved me from a few speeding tickets. The new parallel park feature intrigues me since I never did properly follow-up on my driver’s education training and consequently avoid these tight parking spots whenever possible. (Believe me, it’s not pretty when I have no choice.)

But that’s where my endorsement ends. When I consider the number of recalls in recent years for everything from faulty airbags to defective seatbelts to ignition problems, I’m not so sure that I want to relinquish control of my vehicle to some computerized mechanical device. I realize there would be an override system, but I have trouble trusting some human drivers (yes, I tend to brake when I am in the passenger’s seat), so how am I to relax and trust that some automated system will work? And if I’m going to be tensely second-guessing every situation, then I might as well drive the vehicle myself.

Whenever I hear of innovations to enhance safety on the road, I am reminded of an incident involving my Uncle Fred many years ago when he made his annual trip from Ontario to Saskatchewan. Rumble bumps had just been introduced to help warn drivers of an approaching busy intersection where a stop was required. When my uncle (who had never seen these bumps before) drove over them, the loud noise startled him. He thought something was wrong with his car, panicked and started to look around to see what was wrong and proceeded to drive right through that intersection without stopping at all!

My apologies to all the techies out there who are eagerly awaiting the next big innovation. I’m all for improvements, but sometimes I wonder if all these new gadgets have made people less vigilant, less attentive and less responsible when it comes to driving.

Maybe before car manufacturers embark on a race to see who can be the first to market a self-driven vehicle they should focus on properly fixing all the other glitches that are prompting massive recalls. Maybe drivers need to become better aware of the rules of the road and more accountable for unsafe practices. And maybe that’s one of the reasons we see so many vintage cars out there – people just want to go back to a vehicle that is a joy to drive.

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