Auto Manifesto

May 8, 2008

Ralph Nader's Boat

Automotive News published an article on Ralph Nader’s efforts to state a protest outside of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) headquarters about auto safety. I didn’t even know he was still running for President. Here’s an excerpt from the article ( requires login):

In a statement, Nader said NHTSA, which is charged with adopting lifesaving safety standards, instead "has now become a pathetic consulting firm for the motor vehicle manufacturers."

I’m all for automotive safety but these advocates are usually barking up the wrong tree. To his credit he's been a central figure over the last four decades to the tremendous improvement in automobile safety. But we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns on safety while people are still driving.

If you really want to make a difference in highway safety, pursue improved driver training, cracking down on impaired/distracted driving, getting incompetent drivers off the road, and pushing for driverless cars. The cars themselves are quite safe today and making them safer isn't going to reduce the number of accidents.

Strengthening the roof, while not a bad thing (within reason) is not going to do a thing to fix the fact that a car has flipped over because of human error. It’s people like Mr. Nader who keep diverting the public’s attention from the bigger issue of safety. Get the cars to drive themselves and we won’t have to deal with the aftermath of human drivers.

If more than 40,000 people die each year on the highways, and at worst 10% of these are caused by technical or road issues then the other 90% are due to driver or pedestrian error. Shouldn't we focus on preventing those mistakes in the first place rather than trying to save people after the fact?

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