'Safety' Requirements Make Your Car Less Actually Safe
enacts laws or issues regulatory fatwas requiring
that new cars comply with various safety standards.
Ironically, the result of these standards in terms of vehicle
design and otherwise may just be cars that are less safe
to actually drive.
you may have noticed that the beltline (door height) of the typical
new car is higher up than was typical in the past. This makes it
feel as though youre sitting lower in the car, as youre
surrounded by a bathtub of steel. (No more resting your arm on the
top of the door as you drive with the window rolled down.) Beltlines
are higher to meet increasingly stringent side impact standards.
But for every action, there is a reaction.
reasonable overall proportions, the designers abbreviate the vehicles
side glass height to make up for the higher doors and rake
the front and rear glass. You get a chopped look. (Otherwise,
the vehicle would look overtall.) But reduced glass area means decreased
visibility and this along with the now-commonplace steeply
raked glass (in particular, the rear glass) results in a diminished
view thats also frequently distorted on top of that.
see as much and what you do see isnt seen as
impinging negatively on visibility is the growing thickness of the
cars A, B and C pillars (roof crush standards as well
as making room for side-impact air bags) in addition to taller/thicker
seat headrests (whiplash). In several new (2013) cars Ive
driven recently, it is very hard to see cross traffic coming at
you from either side - making it much more dangerous to enter a
busy intersection. Blind spots are larger, too requiring
more situational awareness of drivers who are not infrequently
more aware of their sail fawns than whats going on
around them as they drive.
You have to
drive an older car to get a sense of how much has changed. The other
day, I went for a ride in my friends 63 Buick Special
sedan. You felt like you were in a greenhouse. Excellent visibility
all around. They used to make pillarless sedans
no B pillar at all so when you rolled down the front and
rear side glass, the entire area was completely open. Not anymore.
the rest of the article
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
Best of Eric Peters