Can you remember a time when there has been more bad press for car companies?
The unintended acceleration debacles with Audi in 1986 and Toyota in 2009 were precursors to the multitude of problems that have reared their ugly heads this year. The General Motors ignition switch recall, Chrysler’s defiance of the NHTSA, and now, Volkswagen’s diesel issue all call into question the safety (and honesty) of the world’s automakers.
Yes, bad things can happen when building cars. Parts can be defective, engineering can be faulty, and tests can be cheated.
But let’s not forget the biggest factor in automotive safety:
Let’s say you purchased a make of car that has been accused of unintended acceleration while spewing untold amounts of pollution into the air before the ignition mysteriously turns off. You’d be in a pretty bad place, right?
No, not really. The odds of an actual mechanical failure that impact the drivability of a car are miniscule. The real responsibility for safety belongs with the driver. So how can you keep yourself safe, no matter what you’re driving? It all starts with common sense.
It is an unfortunate truth that some problems in recalled cars, most recently in GM and Chrysler vehicles, have been directly attributed to accidents and deaths. If there is a catastrophic failure of a vehicle system while traveling at speed, the best thing you can do is firmly and evenly apply the brakes while steering out of traffic, if possible.
There are steps you can take to make sure your vehicle is properly prepared for each trip and minimize the odds of such a failure, though. They are:
- Check for recalls on your car and have them repaired right away.
- Ensure that proper tires are installed and in good condition.
- Have the car tuned up and checked for any obvious signs of wear in the engine, transmission, and braking systems.
- Remove distractions. I’ve seen firsthand how dangerous they can be. Distractions are a completely preventable cause of accidents, and we don’t need our safety risk while driving any higher.
- Buckle up. If there is an accident, being buckled in will improve your odds of walking away from the crash. It’s simple advice, but don’t forget it.
We trust automakers to build and sell cars that put the safety of humans first, but we have to also take responsibility for ourselves and employ precautions that could save lives while driving.
Do you trust automakers to keep you safe?