Monday, September 03, 2007

How to kill yourself or a child with your car radio

Things keep improving, right? Especially in the world of technology. Wrong.

Not so many years ago, as you were driving along the freeway at 70 miles per hour, or driving at 30mph past a school, when you wanted to change the station on your car radio, you reached down to a rather large knob and, with your eyes still safely on the road, you turned it.

For 20 years or so, radio designers have convinced themselves (and the public) that they have a better idea: car radios with tiny little buttons that are virtually impossible to find manually. To change stations, you have to take your eyes off the road and thus risk a serious accident. Therefore, except in terms of audio quality, the car radio of today is of a far worse design than the car radio of even 60 or 70 years ago. We have gone backwards. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes almost nobody realizes. It is dangerous to assume progress is inevitable in all fields of human experience.

Possibly research into this problem is difficult, because how would police know if a person dead in a wrecked car had been trying to change from talkback to country and western music? I doubt there will ever be statistics that will spur road safety authorities into considering the dangers of miniscule car radio press-buttons. What is called for is common sense, and sometimes that can be missing even in the fields of design, science and public policy. What is required here, in the absence of statistics, is for designers and policy makers to look at their car radios, then look at old car radios, and have a long imaginative think.

How many men, women and children have been killed or maimed because of these marvels from the woolly-headed designers and manufacturers of modern car radios?

More on Monday.


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