With Great Power Comes?

- - posted in Rants | Comments

I’ve been noticing a trend lately in modern cars. Everything is getting exponentially faster and more powerful, and meanwhile more affordable.

You can go out today and buy a lightweight SUV or sedan from Jeep/Dodge/Chrystler with a 420hp Hemi for around $35k. But it’s not just the “hot rod” cars that are getting big power, a 2008 Honda Civic has no less than 140hp in it’s cheapest form. Not even 10 years ago that amount of power was reserved for the “Si” model. A 2008 Honda Accord v6 has 286hp. The performance of these cars easily exceeds that of the 60’s and 70’s muscle car and is well in excess of what most drivers need, or can use.

Meanwhile, all you need to do is memorize a few rules and convince a government worker that you can drive in a straight line and use your signals when appropriate to get a license. Worse still, you only need to prove it once. Afterward you’ll just get a renewal notice in the mail until your 130th birthday when they start to wonder if you are still alive, and should be driving.  That’s well past the age where “oops I mistook the gas for the brake” is at an acceptable margin of error. There is no requirement to handle power induced slides, know how to react when you start to go sideways in a turn, nothing! But 16 year old Johnny, if he’s fortunate, or wealthy can be behind the wheel of a relative super car.

Where’s the responsibility? You should have some vague inclination of how to drive, and control yourself if you’re going to be able to drive some of todays cars on the street with others. Now don’t get me wrong, my first car was a 1967 Thunderbird which made 340hp. However, it almost NEVER ran well enough to generate that power and deliver it to the tires. Furthermore, I had to work hard on that car to even keep it running, which gave me a good sense of it’s inner workings, and exactly what I was dealing with. I was also taught a few important lessons about speed and control before I was set out on my own with it or any other vehicle.

The idea of just anyone with an (easily acquired) drivers license behind the wheel of some of these vehicles is frankly quite terrifying to me, particularly in the face of the sort of antics I see on a daily basis even from “mature” drivers. Mind you I wasn’t alive during the “hot rod” era of the 60’s and 70’s where I’m sure a similar situation existed, even in the absence of anti lock disk brake systems, air bags, and chassis/traction controls, so maybe this is just history repeating itself.