Sunday, April 17, 2011

Big Brother says: Cars good, Cars safe.

Selling Violent Death - Death by Car: "Like so much else in the market-totalitarian United States of America, Big Brother would be hopping jealous of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not only does the agency get away with its name — as if “safety,” rather than danger, is the topic raised by “highway traffic” — but it also functions as a more or less open adjunct to the corporate car-sales effort.

Consider the issue of NHTSA “frontal crash tests,” the procedure that yields the “government 5-star ratings” that are a staple in automotive advertising. If the truth be told, these tests are merely another form of public subsidy to cars-first transportation. As a basis for making marketing claims, they are gold. As a source of legitimate information about the risks of owning and operating any particular car, however, they are close to meaningless."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Without context, crash tests might seem to be useless. Really what's happened is that autos have substantially increased in occupant safety, but the ratings have not been updated to reflect that. Twenty years ago, it was a rare accomplishment to get a 5-star rating, but now, it's par for the course. NNHTSA has actually talked about revising the standards to account for things like traction control, roll stability, and other passive safety systems to create a rating more useful for comparison.

As for NHTSA being "in bed" with the car companies, that's not necessarily true or untrue. The rules are written in such a way that a company can basically save a lot of face (and sell it by saving the government all the work of a recall) by doing a "voluntary recall." Toyota did it with rusting frames on their trucks and previously reported acceleration issues. NHTSA's not so much in bed with the car companies as they are just schizophrenic.