Should We Consider Crashes Inevitable?

Illustration for article titled Should We Consider Crashes Inevitable?

The one given in the decades-old debate over government-mandated safety features on motor vehicles has been this: Drivers are idiots, and they're destined to crash all the damn time. Have we taken the wrong route?


Those who make decisions about safety features, for the most part, treat the vehicle as an uncontrolled projectile knocking about the landscape like a steelie in a pinball machine. Sure, we now have dual-reservoir brake systems and better lighting, but most of the safety-enhancing hardware in modern-day vehicles involves crumple zones, airbags, etc. All that gear means that vehicle occupants are more likely to survive the inevitable crash… but is the crash really inevitable?

What if all drivers were actually required to know how to drive, and their vehicles were designed to take advantage of their skills? Say, a setup like the one postulated by Gilbert Shelton? We'd have commuters in lightweight, nimble econoboxes and minivans that stuck to the road like a Lotus Seven, with sober drivers paying attention to their surroundings… and those who couldn't handle it could trundle along in the urine-scented comfort of a goddamn transit bus! What do you say?

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Frankly, requiring skill and common sense would reduce traffic by half, because the other drivers would be sitting home or at the driver training school. As a result, less than half as many wrecks. Apart from my occasional man-on-a-mission, get outta my way driving, I am a fairly defensive driver. Despite that, I have been T-boned, run off the road into a telephone pole, and hit a deer. These actions totaled three vehicles since 1999. Gotta love my seatbelts and crumple zones.

So, yeah, "Drivers are idiots, and they're destined to crash all the damn time."