Car Talk Guide to Auto Safety
Horsepower...the American Birthright
Greg Hoff sent the following letter
Hi Tom and Ray,
Being an enthusiast of the automobile, I have enjoyed your program for a long time. Even drinking coffee out of a mug with your mugs on it.
Today I was surprised to hear you fire some big shots against high-performance cars. Specifically the BMW Z-3. I thought for a moment that somehow my radio had drifted to the Rush Limbaugh show.
This can't be Tom and Ray ranting about the dangers of our American birthright...HORSEPOWER!
That poor Janet from Charlotte will think twice before ever calling you guys again! Expecting a simple answer to a simple question about manual vs. auto transmission,; she finds two mechanics on the shop rag!
I must take umbrage at your belief that high-performance automobiles should be banished. I wouldn't argue that some boneheads drive them irresponsibly, but I don't believe they contribute to a higher number of accidents.
A better-handling car with the ability to accelerate quickly can aid in avoiding some accidents. It comes down to driver maturity.
I do agree that it would be an improper choice for a 16-year-old (though I would have loved such car at that age). When my girlfriend at 16 got a new Firebird Trans Am, she became incredibly attractive and irresistible! My first car at 16 was a '60 Chevy Biscayne with a 409. My folks would never have let me buy it if they knew how much power it had. Somehow I survived the rubber-burning years and progressed to Volkswagen buses and other mundane modes of transport.
When I turned 40 a few years back, my hairline started to recede and my waistline started to grow...so I bought a Corvette. I imagine I could have been dangerous in a car like that when I was a teenager. But now this car (or a Z-3) provides a little bit of pleasure in an otherwise predictable and mundane driving pattern. While I'll admit to urges to drive more aggressively than I do in my other cars, I can manage those urges so that I'm not a menace to society.
Banning all performance cars to prevent someone from driving irresponsibly won't work.
I'm sure this won't be the only letter on this subject so I'll move over and let somebody else yell at yous guys!