ARS Technica FEB 2024 / by / Read original article

Over the years, inventors have had some weird ideas about how to make cars safer.

Turn signals have been a vehicle safety staple since they first appeared on Buicks in 1939. Of course, many drivers don’t use them, perhaps believing that other motorists can telepathically divine others’ intentions.

More people might use turn signals if they knew that drivers’ failure to do so leads to more than 2 million accidents annually, according to a study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers. That’s 2 percent of all crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And not using turn signals increases the likelihood of an accident by 40 percent, according to the University of Michigan Research Institute.

Human nature could be to blame—death and injury will never happen to us, only others.

You wish.

So, is it any wonder that during the first six decades of automobile production, there were few safety features? The world into which the automobile was born was one in which horses powered most transportation, but that didn’t mean getting around was safe. Say a horse got spooked. If the animal was pulling a carriage, its actions could cause the carriage to barrel away or even overturn, injuring or killing its occupants. Or the horse could cause death directly. In fact, a surprising number of kings met their end over the centuries by a horse’s swift kick. And rail travel proved even deadlier. Studies comparing modern traffic accidents with those of the early 20th century reveal that death from travel is 90 percent less likely today than it was in 1925.

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