Wired’s Autopia has a post this week on the new mandate that all vehicles come standard with a “brake-shift interlock system” to prevent deaths of children putting vehicles in gear accidentally (or on purpose) and then being stuck in a runaway car.
I can speak from personal experience that being in a vehicle with no brake-shift interlock system that gets stuck in gear and starts rolling is not pleasant. However, I can also speak from personal experience that it happened because I was given the keys to unlock our van when I was about 7. My parents rarely did things that were unsafe, as I was a relatively intelligent boy. However, the emergency brake wasn’t fully engaged, and I rolled out of our driveway, across 4 lanes of road in front of our house, jumped a curb, and across another three lanes of roadway. Fortunately, I didn’t jump the second curb, or I would have ended up 65 feet down an embankment crossways of a 55 mph highway.
But the lack of a brake-shift interlock system wasn’t to blame: I was. I’m the one that stuck it in gear even though I knew that I probably shouldn’t. And I’m the one who didn’t stick it back in gear after the fact.
Parents need to be aware of their kids. They don’t need their cars doing their jobs for them. As a driver now, I always start my car with my foot either on the brake, the clutch, or both just because it’s a good idea to make sure the car doesn’t start to roll while you’re starting it. But a brake-shift interlock system isn’t what makes me do it – it’s common sense, backed-up with a personal experience of what can happen if you don’t.
It really bugs me when the government jumps in and tries to do things for us that make it feel more like a nanny than a government. Mandating seatbelts for adults is stupid. Mandating cars have airbags is overkill. Mandating safety for underage passengers may be a good idea, though the parent/driver should be worried about the safety of their passengers anyway. Seatbelt use should be pushed onto insurance rates, not enforced by cops. Airbags are desired by most consumers, and insurance companies give discounts if you have them, so there is an incentive for them to exist even if they’re not legally required.
Treating citizens like children doesn’t make them safe, it makes them dependent. Dependents don’t do things for themselves, don’t take responsibility for their actions, and are generally not healthy for the nation as a whole. We expect children to be dependent on their parents, but our country keeps trying to make its adults dependent, too.
And it disgusts me.