Imagine a major car manufacturer (such as Ford) building and selling a lethal car (like the Pinto) which routinely incinerated the occupants, because the petrol tank was situated right at the back where it could get easily punctured by a rear end collision. Routinely these bumps also jammed the doors shut. Around 27 people were burned to death as they fought to get out of their blazing cars, before Ford decided to do something about it.
So, the accountants worked out the cost of making the necessary alterations, and they realised that it would be cheaper to just let a few more people get carbonised and then pay their relatives compensation. Even better; they would encourage their buyers to take out insurance. After all, what are cheap car insurance sites like Prudent Plus or moneysupermarket there for? The alterations were not made. After all they had their profits to consider didn't they?
Things have improved since then, but according to the latest figures there were still more than 180,000 people injured on British roads, in 2016. Of these, about 1800 people lost their lives.
The car remains a very dangerous machine!
Is it more dangerous to be in the car or outside it?
Nearly half of these deaths were suffered by people actually inside the car, whether drivers or passengers. About a quarter were pedestrians, a quarter motorcyclists, and around six percent were cyclists. However things are not as simple as this. Bearing in mind the fact that most miles travelled are by car, the death rate from motorcyclists is highest of all. Also, the overwhelming majority of car accidents didn't involve pedestrians at all; and in accidents that did include them they invariably came off second best!
It just shows that statistics have to be looked at very carefully. If you are involved in an accident you are far safer in a car or van than outside it, and if you had an accident on a motorbike your chances of being killed would be very high indeed.
Are fatalities going up or down?
There's been a steady decline in the number of people killed on the roads, particularly over the last 20 years. Drink-driving regulations have helped, as well as seatbelts and airbags, but improved car safety design has been the major factor.
How have cars improved?
The interior of a car used to be full of hazards. Flying glass could decapitate the occupants. Steering wheel rims could collapse and the stem poke through the driver's chest. Sharp corners of instrument panels, knobs, interior mirrors or handles could tear into flesh. Even a door to a glove compartment has been known to fly off and cause severe injuries. Most of these problems are now consigned to the past.
Are there still dangerous cars out there?
There is a trend now towards people buying smaller and lighter cars because they are handier for nipping around overcrowded cities, and they are cheap to run. Unfortunately they inevitably come off second best in an accident. If there was a collision between, say, a Mercedes C series or a Renault Twingo, which one would you rather be in? Yes, I thought so........