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‘Government doesn’t think consumers know how to drive’

Jan 11, 2024

I’ve been a car guy for 70 years, going back to the first AMT model car kit I built when I was 12 years old. Over that period of time, I’ve had customs, sports cars, hot rods, RVs, daily drivers and trucks. Got my driver's license on the day I turned 16 like so many young men of that era. Driver's education was available through high schools and didn't cost a dime.

A couple of years ago, my wife purchased her fourth minivan from our local dealer. The owner's manual is over an inch thick at 400 pages (most manuals are now online). Even with help from the salesman, I think we are only using 15% to 20% of the car's features. The owner's manual for my 1960 Thunderbird was less than 60 pages. What's really scary is that the manufacturer knows my mileage even when the van is parked in the garage. Bet the Federal Bureau of Investigation can subpoena that info!

Very simply, the federal government doesn't think that consumers really know how to drive! With an average of 1,400 semiconductor chips in a new car or truck, all you need to do is listen for the beeps and look at the big screen in the center of the dash as you go down the road. Is that not big time distracted driving?

According to, electronics represented 18% of the cost of a 2000 model new car. It's now 40% of the cost of a 2020 model and projected to be 45% of the cost of a 2030 vehicle. These numbers are a big reason that insurance has skyrocketed in the last 10 years.

Most drivers over 40 learned how to drive without all of the electronic bells and whistles that are now mandatory. I still look over my shoulder or use the mirrors when I change lanes instead of depending on a sensor that is worthless when it's covered with mud.

Why do you need the automatic braking feature if you are observing the one car length for every 10 miles per hour spacing on the highway that is taught in every driver’’ ed class? I have to admit, the Ford TV commercial showing mom pushing the button to engage the self-driving feature so she could communicate with her son in sign language tugged a few heartstrings.

Backup cameras became standard on every model when several small children were killed by parents unable to see a child when backing out of the driveway. That makes sense, unlike the required tire pressure monitoring systems that add to the cost of the car. A top of the line tire pressure gauge costs less than 20 bucks. In addition to the computer chips required to show tire pressures on your dash display, there are tiny little batteries in special valve stems that run out of juice after so many years. When the TPMS system goes bad on a Porsche, the dealer can charge up to $1,800 to get it working again!

Finally, let's talk about seat-belt compliance. According to statistics, seat-belt usage in 2016 ranged from 70% in Georgia to 97% in New Hampshire. Nineteen states had seat belt usage above 90%. That said, did you know that some late model cars will not allow you to use the radio until your belt is buckled? Actually, one electronic feature I could go along with is a cell phone signal blocker that is engaged as soon as the car is put into gear.

Don't know about you, but I’d be willing to pay 40% less for a car without semiconductor chips.

Dennis Pierce is a resident of Durango.