August 18, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)
I wonder how many fatal accidents are caused by the driver
focusing his attention on the radio rather than the road. No one
has come back from the dead to tell us that he was changing the
station on his radio when his wheels hit the shoulder or he swerved
into a different lane.
The last time that I visited a large drug store that sells everything except automobile tires, I noticed that most of the watches that they had in their display case were analogue, not digital. They had two hands and some had a third hand that measured seconds. I assume from this that many people are going back to the old fashioned kind of watch. I know why too. Twice a year I have to change the time on my watch and my wife's digital watch. It is a chore for the simple reason that no two watches have the adjusting buttons in the same place. Some have 3 buttons and some have 4. I have the choice of experimenting around with the watch or trying to find the directions. Either procedure would be unnecessary if there were STANDARDS. All analogue watches worked the same, so why not the digital variety.
Some time ago, a very expensive automobile had accidents when their drivers stepped on the brake and the vehicle accelerated. Investigators finally concluded that the driver was actually stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brake. This isn't surprising since no two cars have pedals with identical spacing. It's easy to see why a person who drives two different cars might accidentally step on the gas, thinking that, as in his other car, that it was the brake. I have done it.
I own three vehicles, two Toyotas and a Nissan. The instrument panels on each one is different, the heater, air conditioning, cruise control and radio controls are different. The two Toyotas are the same, but they are located in different places. The radio controls are different on each vehicle. Even the two Toyotas have different radio controls. Consequently, I have to think about how to rewind my tape or turn on the radio. The cruise controls are totally different on each vehicle. My wife's RAV4 has the display set so deep that it is hard to tell how fast I am going in the daytime. The same thing applies to the location of the air controls and the radio push buttons. I have to concentrate to remember which vehicle I am in every time that I have to adjust the radio. Sometimes I make a mistake. I recently rented a Dodge, and everything on it was different from the Japanese cars.
Old cars had a large, easily read speedometer. Now cars have a tachometer dial that reads RPMs. What earthly use this is to the vast majority of drivers, I can't fathom; unless it is to confuse them. I know that I never use it.
I wonder how many fatal accidents are caused by the driver focusing his attention on the radio rather than the road. No one has come back from the dead to tell us that he was changing the station on his radio when his wheels hit the shoulder or he swerved into a different lane. I have to concentrate every time I do something in my wife's car. My concentration on the radio takes my concentration away from the road, which is where it should be focused. Occasionally, thanks to those differences, I get distracted from my driving. A cop once stopped me to find out if I was drunk when I did that, because the car was weaving.
I have a theory about how cars are designed. First the engineers work on it and they produce a vehicle that will do what it is supposed to do. Then the prototype is turned over to the designers. Automobile designers are cut from the same material that is used to make clothes designers. In short, they are effete idiots who judge everything by looks rather than usefulness. I can hear the designers of the RAV4, an exceptionally useful vehicle, say that there is too much room in the wheel wells and that it spoils the appearance. Never mind that someone might want to put slightly larger off-road tires on it, or that snow might pack between the tire and the wheel well. I guess that they figured that having a crotch cooler more than compensated for the small wheel wells and the recesses dashboard display.
I wonder how many people are killed when they are distracted enough to have an accident. Unlike with seat belts or air bags, there is no way to tell. I would bet that many many more people are killed due to non-standard controls than are saved by air bags.
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