Here’s Why Older Cars Were Safer
And Made For Better Drivers
Picture roughly 30 years ago: you’re in the market for a new car. You head down to the local dealership of your choice, have a perusal at your choice of vehicle and its list of options and extras. Chances are, you have a choice of many odds and ends that were popular back then - a funky cassette player, electric sunroof, electric mirrors perhaps, power windows, air conditioning - all things that are mostly standard on all modern cars now.
What you didn’t have were things like lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, traction control, or even a giant touchscreen in the middle of your dashboard with more computing power than the Sputnik 1.
Fast forward to modern cars, and in addition to the above mentioned items, you likely have a dozen airbags to turn your car into a giant bouncy castle with wheels, hundreds of sensors monitoring your heart rate and blood sugar level (probably), and a braking system which decides that the car in front is too close, and slams on the middle pedal for you.
Modern cars with all their gadgets and gizmos are great if you’re into that stuff, but it causes a number of glaring problems: they make for worse drivers.
Picture yourself at eighteen years old, and you’ve just bought your first car - a Honda Civic. It’s got a whopping 90HP, tyres the width of a bicycle, and electric windows as its only “luxury” feature. This car simply works. And chances are, it’ll probably live longer than you if you treat it right.
The car is so light that you will feel every bump and texture on the road. The tyres so thin that they will break traction very easily, but thats OK, because the engine power (or lack thereof) means you’ll barely be doing the legal limit anyway.
The lack of weight will mean doing 30 will feel like you’re doing 50, and it’ll be a hoot around the bends. Theres no ABS to save your butt if you get it wrong, so you’ll need to watch for those around you. Not that it matters, the brakes are more like frisbees anyway.
The windows are akin to a glasshouse, and a simple turn of the head will have you feel like a camera pivoting on its mount. Visibility is exceptional. There are virtually no blind spots.
Theres no giant infotainment system to rob your attention, and the dials only tell you exactly which information is relevant to the car.
What does all this mean?
Simply put, many years later when you can afford a fancy wallet and a pair of keys to your own abode, chances are you can afford something much more modern, and better equipped too.
The nicer interior that plays all your tunes, festooned with the finest of leather feels like an upgrade that you’ve earned.
The engine is likely several times more powerful, and you have a sense of respect and reverence for such engineering.
The tyres are fatter and more modern, and the brakes can probably stop the plane you took to your last trip to Ibiza. Everything is bigger and better in every way imaginable, and you - the fleshy bit behind the wheel - is more equipped and better informed to handle such a piece of metal on wheels.
A modern Mercedes with all the kinds of funky technology you can lay your mitts on
A deprived generation?
Perhaps I’m now sounding like an old geezer who bangs on about “back in my day”. And maybe I am. But I genuinely believe older cars made for safer drivers - and safer roads. Not withstanding the amount of safety gear at hand - it trained perhaps the most important thing that is a part of a car on the road, and that is the person controlling it all.
You can keep your fancy lane keeping assist and autopilot. Enjoy the act of driving, and you’ll become a better driver for it. And the road will be a safer place.