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You can’t be trusted

April 8th, 2002 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I can’t get a permanent link to this, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much press, so I feel compelled to put the whole thing here:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A new automotive safety bill introduced last month has brought howls of protest from consumers and the auto industry who say it goes too far.

Congress has been awash in complaints from both the auto industry lobby and automotive enthusiasts over the last several weeks to lodge complaints against a bill that would prevent any new vehicle licensed for use on public roads, from being able to drive over speed limits posted by a new type of high-tech road sign currently being deployed.

The new technology, dubbed “Smart Roads” by the Department of Transportation, is being hailed by safety advocates as long overdue. Special digital markers, ebbed alongside a road can broadcast speed limit information, as well as other road restrictions, to car equipped with a smart road reader. The DOT plans on spending $200 million dollars to deploy the new signs, starting with areas and highways with poor road safety records. They’ve already been deployed in Los Angeles on a test case.

But for the smart roads to be effective, cars have to be made smart too. This is the goal of the new law. If the bill is made into law, all cars would have their speed regulated. In absence of information from the smart road signs, the top speed of any vehicle would limited to 65 miles per hour, the speed limit recommended by the Federal government for open highways.

“The technology has been available for years,” said Mario Andrews, spokesperson for the Safe Roads Council. “It’s clear from the ever increasing death tolls on our nations highways that speed kills. Cars and SUVs are sold that easily do double the highest allowed speed limits in the nation. There’s no reason for it.”

But critics of the bill say it’s proponents aren’t concerned about safety, but dollars. Insurance companies, are by and large, the largest supporters of the proposed law.

“There’s no amount of money that you can place on a human life,” said Tony Nicely, C.E.O and President of GEICO Insurance. “We see the data, and we see the trends. People are dying on the roads every day. Sure, better enforcement of speed limits is better for our bottom line, but that’s not the point. The point is saving lives. We feel smart road technology can eliminate a lot of the risks faced on today’s roads.”

The auto industry disagrees.

“Most people drive within speed limits, and drive safely. Most accidents occur under the speed limit, actually,” said John F. Smith, Jr, CEO of the Chevrolet division of General Motors, and makers of performance cars like the Chervolet Corvette. “There are times when extra speed and power can actually be safer, when used responsibly. And if I want to take my Corvette on to a track to see what it can do, are you telling me I won’t be able to go faster than sixty-five? Do we need the government to be our nannies? This bill could kill the performance auto industry in the U.S., and we don’t need that right now.”

Csaba Csere, editor in chief of Car and Driver, was more blunt.

“It’s stupid,” said Csere. “You can’t make a law that requires a gadget and expect one hundred percent safety. Full compliance with speed limits isn’t the only issue regarding safe roads. The money and effort would be better spent improve our aging highway system, or funding enforcement.”

How does the Safe Roads Council respond to all this fury raised by the bill?

“The only people who are against this law are people who want to break the law,” says Andrews. “Or people who want to sell cars that appeal to law breakers. Speed limits are law, and if we have the means to insure the law is enforced, especially when that law is there to save lives, we must do it. If the claim is most drivers are law abiding and don’t need it, the reverse claim is most drivers won’t be affected. So what’s the dispute?”

The bill is scheduled to be voted on in the House later this month.

Congress can’t seriously be considering laws this bad, can they?

I’m glad I don’t plan on buy a car any time soon. What’s next, a car that calls the police and your insurance company if you don’t come to a complete stop at a smart stop sign?

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