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November 15, 2012

NTSB Wants State-of-the-Art Safety Features Standard for All Cars

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

In a move that's sure to polarize the sides of public safety and affordability of vehicles, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has taken to the federal government to advocate for making a new standard in car manufacturing: the incorporation of the very latest in safety and collision prevention technologies. While this measure is being well-received on some fronts, on others, it's anything but.

The NTSB's philosophy here is that, while collision prevention technologies are currently limited to only the high-end car and truck models, there's no reason that it needs to continue. Federal accident investigators relate the finding that broadening the reach of these new safety features to all new cars and trucks could both make them safer and drive down highway fatalities. The research from those investigators indicates that collision prevention technology might reduce fatalities by more than half their current number.


Image via Shutterstock

However, this is not welcome news to the automobile industry, which has been having enough problems for the last few years. They say there's a reason those collision prevention technologies are only found on high-end vehicles; specifically, that the cost of installing them is offset by the elevated price of a high-end vehicle. If the NTSB gets its way, say automakers, the price of a new car could climb thousands of dollars as a result, pricing them out of reach for many regular drivers and doing further damage to both the auto industry and the economy as a whole.

While indeed, reducing highway fatalities is the kind of thing that most people would want to see--there are very few people actually in favor of more highway deaths--this has to be balanced against certain economic realities as well as the overall importance of personal responsibility. After all, how many of those highway fatalities could have been prevented with greater vigilance on the part of one of the drivers? We're all familiar with the dangers of texting and driving; perhaps this is the area on which we should dedicate more focus as opposed to the installation of new features that would raise prices on cars to such a degree.

Given the problems which our economy--indeed, the worldwide economy--is still facing, it may not be a good time to demand huge new safety initiatives that would inflate the costs of vehicles outside the realm of possibility for many drivers. This in turn would have a depressing effect not only on car sales, but also on those peripheral industries which relate to car sales. Consider what would happen if all the car salesmen in one particular town were laid off because no one could afford a new car; consider the impact on grocery stores, on restaurants, on property tax figures. This has the potential for much wider impact than highway fatalities.

The need to protect our citizens is a vital need, not to be underestimated by any stretch. But there may be other ways to do this besides the short-sighted mandate of new safety features on vehicles, especially when those mandates would cost thousands per vehicle. With other solutions for reducing highway fatalities available, these should be explored to their fullest before demanding radical changes to vehicle manufacture.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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