The Thin White Line – Improving Car Safety One Piece of Paper at a Time

The North American car market is massive. There are over 170 million cars in use on our continent alone and, due to the dangers associated with these fast-moving, heavy steel objects, an equally vast network of safety mechanisms has been built to protect us all. Although some may not like it, this framework was designed alongside the ever-evolving car industry in an effort to keep consumers, technicians and pedestrians as far out of harm’s way as possible.

Just think about the number of safety inspections a car goes through on its way from the manufacturer to your driveway. On top of product development, including crash and road tests, the manufacturer will conduct at least some kind of quality assurance testing for safety before it gets sent to dealerships around the world. In order to even be released on the market it must meet national and regional policies regarding safety mechanisms, emissions limits, engine size, and a host of other subjects.

Once it’s on the market there are a wide range of consumer protection agencies, consumer review websites and magazines that do their own assessments. One of the things they look for is whether or not the manufacturer paid close attention to widely accepted safety standards. They also conduct their own tests for braking distance, collisions and rollovers.

Even in the hands of the driver there is an ever increasing list of laws that were created in an attempt to promote safety. Traffic laws, regular safety inspections, emissions testing, and the notorious “cell phone” bylaw that is cropping up in various municipalities across the continent are all designed to encourage drivers to be more safe.

Most people consider this complex web of laws and safety regulations to be cumbersome and unnecessary, but where would we be today if seatbelts weren’t mandatory? How many more fatalities or serious injuries would be recorded if there were no school zones or speed limits? Of course, one could argue that some laws impinge on personal freedoms, but the point is that driving safely isn’t something people do naturally. The laws exist to protect the broader population.

Also, by making safety a priority the government has encouraged industry to become more innovative when it comes to their own design. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently began studying whether to make collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems mandatory. Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear that the automotive industry is responding to our society’s rigorous position on safety: they are the ones developing these new solutions.

Rather than trying to buck against the “system” drivers and car owners that understand the regulations and the paperwork, they are actually able to benefit more than those who don’t. The evolution of communications technology over the past decade is also now lending itself to this bureaucracy, making the entire safety framework much more effective and user-friendly.

The “thin white line” enforced by traffic cops, mechanics, industry regulators, and the government at large is actually a very effective system for ensuring that drivers are more cautious about how they use their vehicles. Often, it’s the paperwork, the laws, and the regulations that make driving so much safer for everyone involved.

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