Automotive Safety – A Brief Web Tour
By: Mike Connell
What are the criteria that people consider when looking for
a car – new or used? I think it is different for everyone – not necessarily
due to different tastes, but because of the reasons behind the purchase.
Simple transport versus phat ride (I've always wanted to use that word!).
Until recently, one thing I have almost never had at
the top of my list was safety. I started paying more attention when
I started paying a grand extra for anti-lock brakes, extra passenger-side
airbag, etc. Rationalization sets in. Why do I need anti-lock brakes
when my '80s era Young Drivers of Canada taught me to pump the brakes
when sliding – a strategy and action which effectively disables anti-lock
brakes on contemporary cars.
Air bags are a different matter. My immediate response
used to be positive in relation to these supplemental restraining systems
. . . immediate until I was in an accident (I wasn't driving!). Ploughing
into a stalled vehicle on the 401, late at night, saw the front of our
rental (whew!) crumpled up to the dash. All safe and sound we quickly
realized the airbag hadn't – what's that word? – oh ya, deployed!
Crumpled to the dash, and no airbag.
Sites like "BagBuster" (www.bagbuster.com)
start by letting you know that "Airbags can deploy after an accident!"
Great. Here we are in the back of our car – being towed, and no room
in the cab – with the tow-truck driver giggling away, aiming for bumps
in anticipation of imminent deployment, not to mention the subsequent
soiling of ourselves. Thankfully it didn't happen, but it brings to
mind not only how important it is to have a safe car, but once that
criteria has been met, making sure the safety features will actually
"BagBuster" promotes the sale of the product of the
same name: a device mounted on your steering wheel that prevents deployment.
A good idea, and an even better one that there are sites out there that
promote these types of materials, in addition to opinions concerned
with car safety. The CAA site (www.caa.ca)
is a good one to look at every now and then, as well as its American
counterpart, the AAA foundation for Traffic Safety. Both have detailed
info on up-to-date safety concerns as well as forums for individual
concerns from interested drivers.
I'm a big advocate of the CAA. No, not because I've
locked my keys in my car 5 times, and not because I left my lights on
twice. The CAA deserves some praise simply because it exists to inform
and aid the everyday motorist. Simple directions to detailed tripping
strategies in addition to information-based sites covering the latest
and greatest innovations of both the car industry, and the bodies regulating
it. The innovation of the "smart airbag" is discussed: This amendment
to the current safety feature gauges velocity and impact in order to
determine the force of deployment. An "on/off" switch is also considered
. . . providing the driver with the option of having the safety feature
on/off (I probably did not need to explain that, right?) probably with
regard to the dangers associated with the passenger side bag and children.
All in all an interesting site to stop by.
One to bookmark would be USA Today's page (www.usatoday.com/money/consumer/autos/marecall.htm).
This page lists press releases and bulletins on events happening in
the auto area, plus lists all recalls made by manufacturers regarding
various models and their subsequent glitches. As unsettling as it is
to hear of model defects – cars exploding when all you wanted to do
was access the gas-cap – it is still nice to know that there are ample
arenas out there for finding all of that information out before you
make a purchase.
The one I won't advocate on this occasion, but feel
compelled to include in this little rant would be the FARS – Fatality
Analysis Reporting System (www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/fars/fars.cfm).
This may be going a little far in letting us know just how bad things
have gotten – or at least come up with a different name! Far from subtle,
it's fairly self-explanatory just what this gem of a site provides.
Suffice it to say that their summation indicates that "The Fatality
Analysis Reporting System (FARS) contains data on all crashes in the
United States that occur on a public roadway and where a fatality is
involved in the crash". Lovely. On that note, does anyone need a drive