tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
  • Home
Letter of the Day

When car gadgetry can be dangerous

I don’t disagree about having lights on vehicles any time visibility is restricted. In fact, for several years the lights on GM vehicles come on any time the ignition is on. And that helps. However, I do question some of the other “safety” devices being considered for cars in the near future.

Speaking as an old pilot, safety director and accident investigator, I believe that features that relieve the driver of paying attention will result in a new kind of accident. For example, if a car is made that can drive itself, some “drivers” will very likely program the car and then recline their seats and take a nap. Think about that. When your home computer crashes, you reboot it, and if that doesn’t work, you buy a new one. But, if your car computer crashes, so do you.

In aviation, years ago the industry started putting stall warning devices in airplanes. Since then, there are people flying airplanes (I refuse to call them “pilots”) who cannot feel, hear, see or otherwise sense the signals that the airplane itself sends to them warning of an approaching stall. Crashes have resulted because the pilot(s) didn’t recognize that their plane was stalling. An airline crash in Buffalo several years ago is just one example.

The same thing is beginning to happen in automobiles. This will seem too stupid to be true, but I was told it in all honesty. A friend’s prospective son-in-law bought a new motor home. The salesman demonstrated how to engage the cruise control (which he may have referred to as the “autopilot”). En route home in his new motor home, the young man engaged the “autopilot” and went into the back to get a drink. Naturally, the motor home crashed.

Put a radar in a car that will warn that you are too close to a car ahead, and drivers will stop paying attention to the cars ahead unless the buzzer goes off. What happens if the radar fails, the light bulb burns out, or the buzzer doesn’t work? Crash.

I’m sure someone is thinking that I am an old coot who doesn’t like progress. Well, I flew the first jets and have been in the forefront of progress in several areas. But I believe the driver of a vehicle needs to pay full attention to driving and not rely on “gadgets” to keep him safe. I strongly believe that “God helps those who help themselves” — and that goes for driving as well as everyday living.

Alfred J. D’Amario


Weather Center