6 comments to “Older Cars Left Behind When Safety Motors Ahead”

  1. Lotte

    I find it weird that a compagny can be hold accounted for listen to the rules (at that time) and can now be accounted for that it doesn’t meet the standards of today. Doug said it with a lot more, but that is saying that when I drive a car made in 2011 without sensors, and I back up into someone, I can hold the compagny accountable for not installing the sensors in the car while they did exists at that time.

    It the ‘I’ll sue you’ attitude problem. As a consumer, you yourself decided to drive in a car without the right protection as of today. It’s not a compagny fault that a product that has long left the productions lines is still accountable for any malfunctions. Like if I drive a ford from 1970 and the brakes go out, I can’t sue Ford…

  2. Chris

    Doug, I think your reply is quite good. let me add to that that forcing people to buy new cars at a point in history where cars and the whole in car nation concept is showing its age is insanity. Instead we should focus on improving mass transit. (Not on demand self driven cars, traditional mass transit. And making communities walkable.)

    Everybody who is interested in automobiles would be well advised to read up on “National City Lines” – which has to be one of the biggest historical mistakes the US ever made, one we are still paying for in human misery and destruction. (Because its the reason we get into wars over oil!)

    Although safety is really important, we have to be very wary of the churners in society who want to force us to buy new all the time and try to discourage intelligent reuse, and retrofitting. (Safety features that do in fact save lives – which are not thinly veiled attempts at expanding the Big Brother state are smart though. A lot of these innovative systems – even some fairly sophisticated ones, can and should be retrofitted.)

    But, to make up a wholly fictitious example, then they cannot see somebody a whole brand new car because their car radio doesn’t maintain a 2 way always on data connection with the mother ship as it were.

    First do no harm, or if it aint broken dont fix it, makes too much sense, as efficiency and professionalism is not a profit center!

  3. Ronell

    I remember a while back the government was giving people who owned older vehicles a cash incentive to trade in their old vehicles and buy a new one. They should do it again to help get some of the old unsafe vehicles off the streets. I believe the safety would out weight the cost.

  4. Matthew Mabey

    First let me say that the jury got it wrong in Hill v. Toyota, but that is a separate problem in our society.
    What this article ignores is that the cost of safety equipment is part of the reason that so many old cars are still on the road. Those old cars are the only ones that poor and young people can afford! The automakers have made great strides in making automobiles safer (admittedly under regulation). The problem is that no one is holding the drivers responsible (i.e. the truly liable party in the case of Hill). There needs to be much greater accountability on the part of drivers if safety is to be affordably improved. This is especially true now that society has decided to start legalizing marijuana.
    The cause of Hill’s injuries was the driver running into a tree, not a lap-only restraint! If drivers were as attentive, skilled, and cautious today as they were 40 years ago, the savings in injuries and deaths due to all the costly safety features would be much, much greater. Admittedly, driver attentiveness, skill, and cautions are hard to measure. One very objective measure that has clearly change over that time period is following distance at highway speed.
    Drivers are where the greatest emphasis is needed.

  5. ben kelley

    Mr. Baldwin’s observation that cost is a factor in manufacturers’ decision-making concerning the timing and provision of safety features is certainly on point. However, he’s wrong that my commentary offers “a black and white view of how” such decisions get made. For instance, In some cases it’s not feasible to provide older cars with newer safety features, but in some it is. Providing shoulder belts for lap-belt-only seating positions is an example of the latter; a number of manufacturers did so prior to federal requirements, either by installing them as standard equipment (a miniscule cost item) or providing retrofit kits for purchase by owners (and profit to manufacturers) of earlier models.

    But in reading much into my commentary that isn’t there, Mr. Baldwin appears to have missed its essential point: “The best way is for NHTSA to see that safety is delivered to car owners faster and more effectively by speeding up and broadening its rulemaking and defect-recall processes.” One hopes he would agree.

  6. Doug Baldwin

    The commentary by Ben Kelley avoids the elephant in the room of cost. He tries to finesse that by aiming mainly at the target of earlier requirement of safety features across the model lineup of a manufacturer. But safety features cost money. But more importantly, he does not write in a way that seems to understand that modern consumerism makes his entire complaint moot.

    Presently there are numerous safety features on higher price cars that are not on lower price cars: heads up displays, side warnings when you change lanes and a car is there, auto braking if you approach something in front too fast, various skid stability features, extra air bags everywhere, more cameras to see better in blind spots. It is easily perceivable that these features, like the back up camera, might someday be in every model car sold and contribute to safety so much that they seem “required.”

    But they cost money. And it is true that at first all technology and engineering is more expensive, and that over time, costs come down. That back up camera needs a display and that display needs software and cheap screens and chips. Early adopters pay extra for cellphones, computers, televisions, but if you wait you can get superior tech gear at a lower price….if you wait. This is also true in cars.

    Price matters to people. So if you force a bottom model Kia to install heads up displays etc etc etc the price of that Kia goes up, poor people can’t afford it, so they buy instead a used car without those features anyway. No one is served by that. there is always a line where new technology starts and you can always wish that line came earlier, and you can regulate that line and force it to be earlier, but there will always be a line where the new feature begins.

    It is good to encourage rapid adoption of safety features across the board. Everyone is served by that. But the commentary offers a black and white view of how this happens and ignores the power of the new modern consumer model. The current technology retail strategy renders Ben Kelley’s piece obsolete. All manufacturers now know very well that the key to sales in ever increasing new features, any new features, including safety features. People are getting accustomed to wanting new stuff if it is better. So there is no reason not to invent and develop new features, including safety features, and every reason in the world to do so. The product’s life depends on new features. The back up camera on the competitor’s model this year might at first seem show offy and over the top, but in a few years it is standard everywhere. That is how it works. Your razor has one blade, then two, then three, then four, then five blades, then side swivel and then universal swivel, etc, etc. Thus, your car has one air bag, then two, then side bags and bags everywhere. that is how it works. Because it is how new things sell. they have to have more and better. People want safety, and they will pay for it, and so, they will get it. This isn’t about NHTSA. And as for old cars without those products, well, that will always and forever be the case with all technology until the end of time. There will always be a car with one air bag and then ones with two, and then ones with side bags, etc. You just don’t go from zero bags to four bags. You don’t go from lap belts everywhere to shoulder belts everywhere. It will never be that way. There is always a progression of adoption and it isn’t about criminal negligence, it is about new cost vs volume cost and engineering and consumer adoption realities.

    Doug Baldwin
    La Canada

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