The safety brigade has always marched to the loudest beat — think back to your grandmother who would scold you just for sitting down on some pavement. Cold concrete would give you a brain hemorrhage, she’d shout, or something. Safety can be a dangerous thing.

In the Seventies the US lobbyists were having a field day, elevated to pedestals everywhere from congress all the way down, telling Americans what they should drive and telling American carmakers what cars they should make. Those safety fruitcakes gave us impact bumpers that ruined the look of everything for a whole decade, and it took me 30 years to start liking the impact-bumper Porsche 911. Blame safety.

The same regulators also put down an ultimatum to US car makers during the Seventies, once it became clear that even something like a lowly Volkswagen Golf could go on sale in 1975 with an automatic seatbelt, you know the one that slides across as you get in the vehicle and you catch your elbow wrong and then you have to get out and do it all over again, and everyone hated it. Except the safety people obviously — they told the manufacturers that they could either start offering their cars with airbags, or automatic seatbelts, and figuring the latter was cheaper you started seeing these nuisances in all kinds of cars in America. Anybody who bought a mid-range car during the late Seventies and Eighties, and even into the Nineties, had to suffer the psychological ignominy of being tucked in by an automatic seatbelt like a child.

Anyway, the things weren’t a great idea from the start, and people finally started seeing sense and both the regulators and car manufacturers finally let us do our belts by ourselves again. Well, at least those of us with any sense.


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