The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

10 January 2007

Padded sell

The Feds, specifically the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, would like to crank up auto safety standards, which in and of itself is not a bad idea, though this worries me:

NHTSA acknowledged in a March 2006 report that most people are not familiar with the agency or the government's crash tests, and that NHTSA's ratings had little influence on buying decisions.

A major problem with the program is nearly all vehicles pass current tests — 87 percent of 2006 vehicles received four or five stars (out of five possible) for side impact crashes, and 95 percent earned top marks for frontal crashes.

And what good can a test possibly be if there aren't enough failures? Are we worried about grade inflation, fercrissake? It's not like the Feds grade on the curve.

I admit up front that in my evaluate-and-purchase routine, which I perform as little as I possibly can, I don't pay the slightest attention to crash data, inasmuch as it is not my intention to use the item purchased to crash. (The last car in which I did crash — curse you, Bambi — scored four stars on the driver's side, five on the passenger's, frontally speaking, though the only reason I can tell you that is because I looked it up just now.)

This is not to say that the NHTSA is utterly devoid of good ideas: they've proposed making electronic stability control mandatory, a move which has the potential to reduce substantially the actual number of crashes. (Besides, since ESC runs off the same hardware as antilock brakes, ABS will become mandatory as well, and after living with it for half a year, I'm no longer persuaded that ABS is a crock.) This will almost certainly save more lives than trying to find new places to stuff airbags. (And besides, you already know what I think about airbags.)

Posted at 8:08 AM to Driver's Seat