Great moments in driving

While the fatal crash involving a Tesla car on autopilot mode attention has naturally focused attention on whether self-driving cars can be trusted, we should not lose sight of the dangerous levels of outright stupidity that human drivers are capable of. I was reminded of this when a few days ago I was stopped at a red light and looked in my rear view mirror. In the car behind me the driver had his cat perched on top of the dashboard exactly between him and the windshield.

This is bad in so many ways. Not only did the cat partially obscure his vision since he had to now look over the cat to see the road, but whenever the cat moves the driver will get distracted because movement always catches one’s attention.

This is why hanging ornaments that oscillate from the rear view mirror is not recommended and is even illegal, although at least they are not in the direct line of sight. A Minnesota state trooper addresses this question.

Yes, it is against the law to have anything suspended between the driver and the windshield. Like you say, that does include the handicapped parking permits as well. A law within the past few years currently does allow the GPS units to be on the windshield but only if they are way down near the dash area, and not up in a position of vision obscurement.

Other popular items we see that should be taken down from vehicle mirrors include large fuzzy dice, pictures, jewelry and all kinds of other personal objects. Remember that obscured vision is a critical issue that needs to be addressed by many drivers if they expect to have a safe trip while traveling.

Furthermore, if the cat stood up, the driver would have had his view almost completely obstructed. If the car is rear-ended, the cat could end up on the driver’s face or lap, causing him to lose control of the vehicle

It is also risky for the cat’s safety. If the driver has an accident or brakes suddenly, the cat would get thrown straight into the windshield.

There are so many bad things that could happen that I made sure that I quickly moved into another lane so that I was no longer directly in front of him.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    I have been told that it is now a thing that drunk drivers will turn on their cruise control and then count on their collision avoidance system to keep them from rear-ending other cars. I even think I encountered this. I was driving on a four-lane surface street at the limit of 40 MPH when a woman came up very fast behind me and ended up only a few feet behind my rear bumper. This scared the hell out of me, so I moved into the next lane and she immediately zoomed past me. She must have been held up by one of the stoplights however, because about a mile later I saw her do the same thing to another car next to me. This was at about 4 PM on a Sunday, so how she got so drunk by then in an area with very few bars is beyond my imagining, unless she was still incapacitated from the night before!

  2. EigenSprocketUK says

    THe idea of an airbag deploying towards your face with a cat on top of it is horrific. Hilarious, in a far-too-dark and nigh-on lethal manner too.

  3. Kreator says

    Down here in Argentina, you have no idea how many times we see people driving with dogs on their laps… and children too. Furthermore, I usually see people letting their kids stick their arms and heads out of the cars’ windows, and even the full torso in a couple of occasions. I can’t count the times they’ve tempted me to bang my head against the windshield repeatedly.

    Yeah, we’re horrible drivers.

    PS: And not very environmentally friendly ones either. I once saw somewone throw a dirty diaper out of the window.

  4. says

    The best way to make roads safe is one that people will never accept: lighter vehicles with less horsepower and lower top speeds (e.g. 500kg, 30bhp). Even without distrations, the idea that people can “drive safely at 50kmh” (30mph) is a self-delusion. Animal brains and bodies evolve to react and function at the same speed. The fastest humans run 10m/second, which translates to 36km/h.

    EigenSprocketUK (#3) --

    Airbags emerge from the steering column in less than a quarter second and only in a front end collision. During such accidents, passengers keep moving forward, so kitty would be crushed and killed between the windshield and airbag, not the driver. It would take a rear-end collision for the cat to hit the driver’s face.

  5. thebookofdave says

    Wow, I can hardly believe anyone would be so reckless as to allow their cat to run loose on the dashboard. Even I always remain parked until Cocoa-Puff settles down to a comfortable spot behind the brake pedal.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Two things struck me about this story:
    1. Every time I’ve seen it referred to, including the first sentence of this post, there was a reference to “self-driving cars”. No self-driving cars were involved in this incident. It is a testament to the laziness of journalists, the marketing department of Tesla, and the gullibility of the public that this is being seen as involving self-driving cars. The car involved had driver-assist features, as do many other vehicles by other makers. They are in no way “self-driving”, and require operator attention at all times.
    2. All that said: according to Tesla’s own stats (take that with a pinch of salt), their cars have driven something like 130 million miles on public roads using autopilot, with (so far) one fatality, compared to an average rate on US roads of one fatality for every 94 million miles driven. (When I read that statistic, my first thought was “That makes sense -- if you drive your car all the way to the sun, you’d probably die”.) Which means that, even though they’re not self-driving, they’re already statistically safer than the cars that don’t have the driver assist features, even though they’re currently being driven in the main by the kind of rich show-off douche-bags who take their hands off the wheel and watch a Harry Potter movie instead of paying attention to the road. That’s pretty good.

    I’m quite looking forward to driving being made illegal.

  7. Holms says

    Even without distrations, the idea that people can “drive safely at 50kmh” (30mph) is a self-delusion. Animal brains and bodies evolve to react and function at the same speed. The fastest humans run 10m/second, which translates to 36km/h.

    Wrong, and not just because your assumption (humans can only run at up to 36km/h therefore that is the limit of the brain’s ability to process speed) is unevidenced. I recall a study that found the risk of fatal crashes was closely tied to the speed limit of the road, but only for speed limits of around 60km/h and above. With speed limits in the region of 50-60km/h, the relationship between speed limit and fatal crashes rapidly declined, and crashes instead were dominated by causes unrelated to the local speed limit.

    Though I agree with your other point: urban driving would benefit greatly with a shift to light, low power vehicles.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    the idea that people can “drive safely at 50kmh” (30mph) is a self-delusion

    This is not wrong, it just depends on what you mean by “safely”. People can drive “safely” at 30mph. Hundreds of millions do so every day. To claim it’s self-delusion is perverse. We have every reason to believe we can drive safely at that speed because we have a mountain of personally collected evidence. Equally, however, numbers I’m going to guess in the hundreds of thousands DO have incidents every day, for diverse reasons. We accept the level of risk because the reward is great -- mobility, employability, the perception of freedom. “Safe” is a slippery concept, and the risks we accept differ widely across our experiences for complex and irrational reasons. Everyone’s familiar with the idea that by far the most dangerous part of an airline flight is the drive to and from the airport, yet many of us find this hard to accept. The trouble is that risk is fundamentally about probabilities, and as a species we have next to no innate understanding of that kind of maths. See also lottery tickets.

    Sooner or later the numbers will show that cars with driver assist are safer. Soon after, driver assist will become a common, then mandatory feature, just as did seatbelts, catalytic converters and anti-lock brakes. Sooner or later, the numbers will show that properly self-driving cars are way, way safer even than cars with driver assist… and self-drive will become common, then a mandatory feature, and (not soon enough) it will become illegal to operate a car on a public road under human control.

    One great side-effect of this will be a golden age of cyclnig and (electric) motorcycling, as the risks of that form of transport (which have always been mostly about not being seen by the humans driving the cars) drop away. I’m just a bit disappointed I was born too late to appreciate it.

  9. jrkrideau says

    As some who does most of his urban travel by bike, I simply assume that all drivers of private automobiles are half-blind, insane, homicidal manics. Once out of the vehicle, they usually make a rapid recovery.

    I do feel sorry for the cat. It should be in the passenger seat, preferably wearing a seatbelt.

    @3 EigenSprocketUK

    I was worried about the cat and an airbag. If small children are endangered by airbags, think of the cat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *