Auto Safety

In the late 70s, I was driving home in the early morning. A policeman pulled me over. The city is known for strict speed law enforcement so I was driving a tad under the limit. So, as you can imagine, I was curious about the reason.

The officer told me my left headlight was out. Now, I was even more curious. I just repaced it 2 days prior. I tried to be as respectful as possible but asked if I could check for myself. He didn’t seem to mind so I checked. Apparently a rock took it out.

The old sealed beam lights went bad in a microsecond after the air gets to the filiment. Sure enough, 2 days after the light was installed, it was was useless. The officer politely issued a warning and the next day, I replaced it.

In this case, I was thankful the officer stopped me. The light needed replacing.

Even so, the manufacturers made me angry. The sealed beam light was the standard of the day. However, they were very susceptible to even very small objects. I wondered why they never put a plastic sheet over it for protection. A little 1 penny piece of clear plastic would have kept my car safe; not to mention that it would have saved me eleven dollars and the 10 minutes it took took to again make the car safe.

It would appear that safety is not so much in the forefront of the minds of auto engineers. I’m sure most all of us have some examples of poor engineering that cause safety problems on cars. I think it is intentional in some cases.

Consider running lights today on modern cars. To replace a headlight on a modern auto, it takes half a day at a local mechanic and over $100. I know. I’ve had mine replaced… 3 times. The last time, I drove the car for over 2 months with 1 headlight. I didn’t much like paying the $110, but time waa a big factor. I had to wait from 8 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon. It is sort-of why I waited so long.

The other running lights can be difficult to get at too. In my personal opinion, high maintenance equipment on cars should not be nearly impossible to repair, like brakes. It appears they go out of their way to make things difficult to repair. This, in a way, is a safety factor. I mean, do they really want us car owners putting off brake maintenance. Is this really what the auto makers want? Is it really what anyone wants?

One thing I do know. Light and brake maintenance is far more complex than it should be and probably not as much as the auto makers would like. Oddly, the government agencies overlooking such things don’t seem to mind it. They just don’t like it so much when I drive around with one headlight.

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