Big Brother is at it again.
Now Uncle Sugar’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration wants every automaker to follow the exact same rule about how to turn off a car. Because we’re unable to figure out how to turn off our engines and electric motors unless all the systems look alike. Next, NHTSA will be mandating the size of the fins on our cars. Oh, wait….
There is a superficially sound argument for this mandate. Steven Stepanian, a driving instructor at Driving Concepts, supports it this way:
The faster you can get the car disabled, the faster you are out of danger. If the situation is such that you need to shut down the power to the engine or electric motor, you want it done as soon as humanly possible. I can’t come up with a reason that you would want to delay that action.
There are a couple of problems with this, though. What is the danger, exactly? Shutting down the engine disables the power steering and power brake systems: the car doesn’t become uncontrollable, but it does get, suddenly, a lot harder to control. Second, how often does our car actually run away with us? Most often, runaways turn out to have been caused by operator error: the driver stamped on the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal, and then panicked (even if only momentarily). Reaching for the Emergency Off switch is faster than getting off the wrong pedal? The driver is going to think of that switch while he’s panicked? I can’t come up with a good reason why I need another switch to manipulate in such a situation. The ignition key turns everything off just fine. Even in keyless entry cars.
Electric cars certainly would benefit from a kill switch that disconnects the battery system from the motor (and that cuts off the ignition from the backup gasoline engine). (If that disconnects the battery system from the power steering and brakes, too, that would be a design flaw that wants correction.)
NHTSA also worries that, with the many and varied ways there are to start a car (really? Turn the ignition key or push the boot-up button—how many ways are there to do that?), we might get confused in a rental or a newly bought car. I’ve never been confused, and I’ve driven all over the country, and all over the world, in my cars and in a wide variety of rental cars (OK, I’ve not driven in Great Britain, but they all drive on the wrong side of the road, anyway, so that datum is well contaminated). Have you ever been confused by your car’s ignition key or boot-up button?
There’s a larger question to all of this, and that is why Big Government is mandating what we must have in our cars, why Big Government is insisting on doing our thinking for us: apparently our Betters think we’re just too stupid to function in an environment that isn’t absolutely identical everywhere we go.
While I can appreciate your counter-point, it would appear that you based on opinion rather than fact and something that is very common…what you thought you read rather than what was actually said.
First off, the quote was in reaction to a specific question. The answer to that was given didn’t allow for an indepth explanation of the answer given. Notice the answer included “If the situation is such that you need to shut down the power to the engine or electric motor, you want it done as soon as humanly possible.” Notice that the answer was directed at the power to the engine or electric motor only. The theory was that the driver’s accessibility to the power steering and power brakes would still be made available. As always, not all of the quote a person gives is fully included when printed.
The simple truth is that you are correct in saying cars don’t always get away from us all that often. However, I can tell you with personal experience in teaching drivers about panic situations, they don’t react as you might think. While you think turning off the key does just fine, most people don’t think to take their hands off the wheel when confronted with this very situation. In fact, they tend to brace themselves on the wheel or reach to their right…where the gear shift on all cars made for the US (that have some kind of shift knob or gear selector) have that mechanism located.
While we would all like to think we would know what to do in a panic situation, I can tell you that I have seen the reactions and the are not always as you would think.