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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Auto safety finally popularized

I like the noticeable trending of auto safety issues.  I’ve been writing for years about the rampant annual tally of our country’s vehicle related deaths.  Until recently, car and truck crashes have ended the lives of over 100 victims daily for decades.  Thankfully, that number is decreasing of late, but the current near-90-per-day rate is still unacceptable.

For a century, the universal celebration of motor vehicle transportation has been so glorious, that concerns of safety took a back seat.  The only industry motivation seemed to be building more roads and bigger cars with more horsepower.

Car buffs even agree that during the muscle car era of the latter 1960s, the cars accelerated mightily, but stopped and turned woefully.  It even took until the mid ‘60s to get seat belts, and nearly 1970 to have three point lap and shoulder restraints.  Most baby boomers recall being slammed into the back of the front seats, or wedged under the dash of their family car during a panic stop.  Cars had been around for over 50 years by then!

Airbags, while tested earlier, only became mandatory in the 1998 model year, almost 100 years after cars appeared in large numbers.  As regular readers know, I think helmets would save even more lives than airbags do, but I digress.  Disc brakes, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and newer driver assist features like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control or backup cameras, for example, have all been too long in arriving if our goal is to save lives lost to crashes.

Americans apparently loved the fun and freedom of our personal transportation so much, that it was unpopular to examine its potential perils.  That attitude is changing.

While I still feel that the most important safety factor in driving is the driver, his or her “instrument” definitely plays a role.

And now both entities, driver and vehicles, as they relate to safety, are becoming popular topics.  The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mark Rosekind, is holding two summits on auto safety this year, the first scheduled for June.

The summits will involve public workshops coupled with meetings by automaker CEOs and oil industry executives.  Rosekind is a scientist, and wants automakers to adapt a more proactive safety culture.  He believes that the way recalls are handled, for instance, can bear improvement.  Now, only 65% of recall defects are ever repaired.  He suggests that automakers could learn from the airline industry, which he praised as more proactive than reactive when it comes to consumer safety.

The NHTSA is not the only organization to step onto the bandwagon.  The Velocity television network, teaming with its many auto-related programs, has formed a campaign to help end drunk, drugged and distracted driving.  At the VelocityDriveSmart Website, every time someone takes the pledge to “Drive Smart,” they will donate $1 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

State Patrols around the nation are also revving up anti-texting educational campaigns in reaction to the carnage their troopers are witnessing first-hand since the texting craze became a way of life.  Unfortunately, texting while driving regularly becomes a way of death.

A pledge to Drive Smart promises that you will:  never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drive free of distractions from phones, passengers, food and more, and protect yourself and loved ones by driving smart and reminding others to do so.

I think that’s a worthy pledge.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at