• August 15, 2023

Yet another problem caused by government will soon get a “solution” – imposed by government.

What is the problem? People are running over kids they can’t see in front of their SUVs and crossovers, which ride much higher than the cars most people used to drive. This statement begs an obvious question: Why aren’t most people driving cars anymore? They used to, after all. Why don’t they anymore?

If you answered – because of government mucking with the market and car design, go to the head of the line!

There is nothing wrong with SUVs, as such. Nor with the crossovers that are designed to look like them but which are really just high-riding cars. The problem is everyone – just about – driving these things.

And why is it a problem? For the same reason it would be a problem if everyone, just about, drove any other kind of specialty vehicle whose design specifically compromises everyday functionality for the sake of a specific attribute that most of those people probably don’t need or rarely use.

A good way to understand the problem is to try to imagine if everyone – or almost everyone – were driving high-powered sports cars. Corvettes, for instance. People who did not understand the limitations and weaknesses of cars like Corvettes. Had never learned to safely drive such cars, with respect for their capabilities as well as their deficits relative to cars not designed to be very adept at high-speed, high-performance acrobatics in the hands of people who know how to perform such acts.

And who know when not to perform them.

There would probably be more wrecks – especially in winter and when the roads got wet. Cars like the Corvette are designed to be driven by people who understand and respect their deficits for the sake of their advantages in certain specific circumstances.

SUVs used to be like that – before they were called “SUVs,” a marketing acronym that came into play when SUVs were transformed from specialty vehicles (4x4s) that a relative handful of people bought because they wanted to go off-roading or needed a vehicle capable of traversing deeply rutted, unpaved and often mud-slogged roads into mass-market vehicles. The crossovers that came after emulated the looks and had the same deficits; specifically, increased ground clearance and a higher-than-car center of gravity, reduced lateral and high-speed stability – as well as larger blind spots and poorer overall visibility. These were the compromises that attended being more capable off-road, in deep snow/mud and so on, than a car.

But most people who drive SUVs and crossovers do not go off-road.

And many of them got into and get into trouble on-road. “Rolling over” became a mass phenomenon; the response was to make SUVs and crossovers more stable in the curves and at high speed – and so they are. But they are still so high off the ground that (among other things) it is often harder to see what’s in front of you when you’re behind the wheel of one.

Especially if what’s in front of you is not very high, itself – like a kid.

Enter the “frontover” – a term that sounds a lot like the backing-over of kids that led to government mandating back-up cameras and beepers in all new cars, which had become mostly SUVs and crossovers by this time. Their cabooses were so high it was harder to see what was behind them.

And now it’s the other way around, too.

The number of kids being “frontover’d” by their mom or dad’s SUVs or crossover isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things- about 526 in 2020 – but it’s enough to “call” for the usual “action.” By which is meant a new federal edict requiring another technological Band Aid to “fix” a problem the government itself created – via federal fuel efficiency requirements that had the effect of outlawing most of the cars that most people used to drive.

As mandatory MPG minimums for passenger cars went up, the size (and practicality) of cars went down. But light trucks were not – at first – required to meet the same MPG mandatory minimums as cars. They could still be bigger – and that is what most people have always wanted, then as well as now. The SUV and crossover thus became the “car” of choice for most.

But these once-upon-a-time specialty vehicles were – and are – also higher-riding than cars and harder to see out of.

Voila, the “frontover.” As well as the back-over.

Both of them are the unintended consequences of government action.

Rather than deal with the underlying problem it created, the government rushes to impose “solutions” that crutch the underlying problem, so that government can pretend it has done some good and avoid acknowledging that it is the problem.

Enter Richard Blumenthal, who has a “solution” for every problem created by government. He is demanding that the same federal regulatory apparat that made SUVs and crossovers the “cars” of choice for more than two-thirds of “car” drivers issue a new federal edict requiring all new SUVs and crossovers be fitted with “preventive technology” – which likely means more cameras to see what the driver can’t and more interventions to “assist” people who probably ought not to be driving high-riding SUVs and crossovers for the same reason most people probably ought not to be piloting airplanes.

There’d be fewer “frontovers” (and back-overs, too) if most people were still driving cars they could see out of. That would take repealing CAFE – the acronym for the federal regs that impose mandatory MPG minimums – and undoing the market distortions they’ve caused over the past 50 years.

But it’d be better than this business of trying to fix what government broke – without fixing the government that broke it.

. . .

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