Our View: Safety devices aren't meant to negate carelessness

The SE Texas Record Sep. 15, 2014, 1:09pm

Cars have come a long way in the last hundred years. If you're not old enough to remember, your grandparents can tell you about the old days when cars didn't have turning signals, automatic transmissions, power steering, electric windows, seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, fuel injection, etc..

Before power steering, it took some muscle to turn a steering wheel.  Today, you can steer with your pinkie. 

Someday soon we'll be riding in self-driving cars and even grandparents won't remember what it was like to steer.

Adding safety features and improving the way cars handle should make them less dangerous, but studies have shown that's not always the case. As cars get “safer,” the people driving them tend to feel more secure and to drive less cautiously.

In other words, making cars safer seems to make some drivers less alert – and the results can be tragic.

Halie Bush and her husband own a late-model Ford with a rear view visibility system. A camera mounted on the back of the car allows them to see things they might otherwise miss. It's meant to augment, not replace, the perspectives they get in the rear and side view mirrors and from turning their heads both ways to check behind them.

The Bushes may have come to rely on this rear view visibility system, no longer making sure to look carefully before backing up.

On Nov. 2, 2013, Bush's husband backed over, and killed, their three-year-old son in the driveway of their Carthage home.

Mrs. Bush now is suing Ford Motor Co. in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas, arguing that the vehicle’s “rear view visibility system was inadequate to protect against back-over crashes.”

It was a tragic accident, and there may have been negligence involved, but not on the part of the car maker.

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