OK, I know I said I would be back to normal design related posts after the weekend, but something changed my mind. This morning, I read in the paper about two more cyclists who were killed in a nearby South Carolina town. On top of that, I read the comment from Fritz about my last post and the most recent post on Foldable Walter’s site. It is an understatement to say that these deaths are tragic. Rather than talk about design, I want to ask a question that has been on my mind for some time.
In this country, we force tobacco companies to pay for ads that alert the public to the dangers of their product. Companies that produce alcoholic beverages also have to pay for advertisements that tell people how to use their products responsibly. My question is, why don’t automobile manufacturers have to do the same thing? Car accidents kill 30 – 40 thousand people in the United States every year. Those are staggering numbers, yet car companies continue to market their “lifestyle-oriented” products as fun, sexy, and sporty. Don’t get me wrong, I am not proposing a ban on cars, in fact I own one for long trips. I am proposing that companies who manufacturer and sell cars step up and take part in educating users as to the safest way to use them. The marketing people in the automotive industry are trying to sell an image rather than a product. Fine, I understand that. Still, I think it is their responsibility to remind people to pay full attention to the road any time they get behind the wheel. Ads that show a car skidding in the desert, a sports car speeding on a winding road, or a driver singing and dancing behind the wheel are extremely irresponsible no matter what the fine legal type says. When carmakers mention safety in their ads, it is almost always only about the people in the car. I would love see ads from car companies reminding people that the product is potentially dangerous and that complete attention is required to operate it. Failure to do so is jeopardizing not only the driver’s life, but also the lives of others. Yes, mentioning the potential danger of a product kind of kills the fun image, but it could save lives. Most people in this country take the privilege of driving for granted and they don’ t think twice about multitasking while cruising down the road. People need to be reminded that eating a burger, playing with the stereo, or checking a day planner are activities that can wait until they are parked. Is the automotive industry completely responsible for the problem of driver inattention? No. Could they be part of the solution? I think so.