Cars are so much safer now


This crash test video provided by Consumer Reports in which a 2009 model car has a frontal offset collision with a much heavier 1959 model shows how much safer cars are now despite being much lighter.


The many features that make them safer were because of government regulations that were forced on manufacturers. Ralph Nader’s pioneering work played a large role in spurring those regulations and saving a huge number of lives and crippling injuries.

Cartoonist Mike Luckovich imagines what might have happened if the opponents of government regulations were as strong back in 1968 as the ones we have now in the hysterical way they react to gun control safety measures. Our cars would still be death traps.

Luckovich cars

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    But, but, but what about my right to not have to wear a confining seatbelt or pay a higher price for airbags?!?!
    This is ‘murika, The Land of the Free!!!
    Don’t Tread on Me!!
    /Tea party nutjobbery

    I actually had a long-running disagreement with a guy who was outraged that California passed a law that forced him to wear a motorcycle helmet. He had a young son, but refused to accept the idea that his responsibilities to other people might trump his desire to feel the wind in his hair.

  2. grendelsfather says

    Seems like this is a false dichotomy. The chances of meeting your demise in a ’59 Bel Air vs. a car from 50 years in the future was relatively small back then (except for that one DeLorean – you gotta watch out for it). The real question is how would the Bel Air fair against other cars on the road in the early ’60’s?

    In any case, we need a constitutional amendment outlawing this sort of wanton destruction of ’59 Bel Airs and other classics.

  3. says

    Cars and roads in the US are now about five times safer (in terms of deaths per vehicle mile) than they were in 1960.
    Cars and roads in the UK are about fifteen times safer over the same period.

    If US safety (in terms of deaths per passenger mile) were as good as the UK, you’d be seeing about 16,000 deaths a year instead of about 32,000.

    In 1990 the UK’s rate was around 2 deaths per 100 billion vehicle miles. The US’s was about the same. If the US had improved car and road safety at the same rate as the UK, it would have saved hundreds of thousands of US citizens lives by now.

    I’ve no idea if industry lobbying has had an effect, but your government doesn’t seem to have been putting enough resources into road safety.

  4. konrad_arflane says

    Seems like this is a false dichotomy. The chances of meeting your demise in a ’59 Bel Air vs. a car from 50 years in the future was relatively small back then (except for that one DeLorean – you gotta watch out for it). The real question is how would the Bel Air fair against other cars on the road in the early ’60’s?

    I’m pretty sure you’d be no better off in your ’59 Bel Air if you happened to collide with another ’59 Bel Air. Apart from the seatbelt, air bag and other safety equipment, the main safety difference between the two cars in the video is that the Bel Air absorbs the force of a collision in the passenger compartment – this is bad for the driver whether he hits another car or a brick wall.

    And besides, a collision between two heavy cars involves more total kinetic energy than a collision between one light and one heavy car, which isn’t exactly going to make the whole affair any safer for anybody involved.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    how would the Bel Air fair against other cars on the road in the early ’60’s?

    Worse.

    konrad_arflane has it right – ultimately all the driver of the Bel Air is experiencing is how fast and hard the target they’re hitting is.

    60s cars were just as fast, and indeed in an era of near ubiquitous speed cameras (in the UK at least), probably faster. When the UK originally put in motorways in the 60s, but they didn’t have any speed limits at all until July 1967, and racing teams would test cars on the public roads at speeds in excess of 150mph.

    At the same time, a 60s car was harder – much heavier (and thus more momentum and kinetic energy), pointier (no pedestrian-friendly round bits, way more sharp-edged chrome) and less yielding (no rigid safety cell surrounded by crumple zones, you’re impacting with a hard edge).

  6. says

    60s cars had crap suspensions and no anti-lock braking systems or traction control systems. The most important part of “safety” is “not slamming into something in the first place” — it’s stupid to be arguing from the position of “OK now that you’ve had an accident, which is worse”

  7. kyoseki says

    Cars and roads in the US are now about five times safer (in terms of deaths per vehicle mile) than they were in 1960. Cars and roads in the UK are about fifteen times safer over the same period.

    If US safety (in terms of deaths per passenger mile) were as good as the UK, you’d be seeing about 16,000 deaths a year instead of about 32,000.

    I suspect that this generally has far less to do with the cars & roads themselves and everything to do with training & testing.

    For example, Americans cannot merge. I don’t know if you have to be a socialist to get the concept of a zipper merge where everyone takes turns, but drivers over here completely ignore the fact that they should be preparing to merge and either drive next to the car beside them until they finally run out of road & have to slam the brakes on, or they gun it and try to jump as many cars as possible usually resulting in someone else having to slam the brakes on (or they slow down several hundred yards prior to the merge point and hold up traffic that way instead). As a result of this, any time you have a lane reduction, you invariably have HUGE tailbacks because of the colossal clusterfuck resulting from having 3 lanes drop down to 2.

    They’re also fucking hopeless in the wet, but I suspect this is more specific to California than anywhere else in the country (as a fun exercise, try looking at traffic maps of either San Francisco or Los Angeles any time it’s raining, absolute hilarity).

    As someone who has taken both the car & motorcycle tests in both countries, I can attest to the fact that the US tests are substantially easier, consequently, the standard of driving is far worse. The motorcycle test, in particular, is woefully deficient (it’s approximately equal to the CBT in the UK), which accounts for the huge number of bikers killed here annually.

    I don’t know if there’s any appetite for making the test harder, certainly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the car maker lobby exerts the same kind of opposition to that as the NRA does when it comes to gun control.

  8. John Morales says

    kyoseki,

    I don’t know if there’s any appetite for making the [motorcycle] test harder

    Bike riders generally hurt themselves, not others.

    (Give us a break!)

  9. kyoseki says

    Actually, I was referring to both tests, the driving test is rather simpler than the UK test, but the US bike test is laughable compared to the UK test. Even the MSF course here is barely equivalent to the compulsory basic training in the UK (faffing about in a parking lot) and doesn’t prepare you for real world riding.

    … and unfortunately, I’ve known guys who got hospitalized by bikers riding badly, which tends to happen when you’re riding on crowded roads with people who don’t know how to corner.

  10. dannorth says

    I had seen the video on Youtube a couple of years ago and I had been amused by some comments to the effect that the test must had been rigged because cars were more strongly build than now so it was inconceivable that it would be less safe.

    It ignores the fact that in the last decades safety om top of being more strigently regulaterd has become a selling point and much thought has been put into making car safer while in the 60’s it was said that car manufacturers would rather put 20$ on chrome than 10$ on safety.

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