Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

Let us now rant over the unfairness of safety technology

| April 23, 2010

You wouldn’t normally equate a person’s economic status with the safety of their vehicle, but a recent study links them. The study, appearing in the April issue of Traffic Injury Prevention, is talking about four-wheelers. However, the same principle could apply to heavy trucks’ history with anti-lock brakes and slack adjusters, or to current trends with truck stability control systems and disc brakes.

The thesis is that safety features usually are introduced on luxury vehicles first, which most people can’t afford. Only when they trickle down to the used market, or when the features become more widely integrated on most vehicles, are they actually available to the masses.

“What we found was that people in lower socioeconomic groups don’t enjoy the same access to these improvements as their wealthy counterparts, most likely because of how our society introduces protective technology into the vehicle market,” says Deborah Girasek, a Ph.D. at the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) in Bethesda, Md.

And if you really want to get riled about this, here is Girasek’s curious rebuttal to results that “may not be surprising,” as she admits: “It seems unlikely that we would accept levels of crash protection that were tied to product price in other modes of transportation. Suppose, for example, that in addition to free drinks and wider seats, first class airline tickets came with better odds of surviving a plane crash?”

Vehicles are complex products that have always come with a large variety of parts, features, sizes – factors that often have some bearing on safety. To suggest that every purchaser of a given product has some inherent right to the maximum amount of safety protection, regardless of price, is silly.



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