A few days ago, I was standing at a bus stop reading a newspaper when I heard a loud crash. I looked up to see a small car rebounding off the back end of a Chevrolet Blazer that had stopped at a traffic light.
The car hitting the blazer was a generic sedan, so I couldn't tell what make it was. But that is immaterial to my point. What I know for sure is that the car gave the Blazer one heck of a hit. And it all happened less than eight feet from where I was standing at the curb.
As the drivers got out to inspect the damage, I ambled over to take a look. Judging from the noise the crash made, I expected to see considerable damage to both vehicles. The car had a rubber front bumper that rebounded from the crash pretty much intact with the only visible damage being severe abrasion across the bumper. The Blazer suffered no damage whatsoever because it had a trailer hitch that totally fended off the car. There is no doubt in my mind that without the hitch, the Blazer's bumper supports would have been bent.
Once again, I am vindicated. On this page in the January 9, 2003 issue, I wrote about how I had a trailer hitch installed on my pickup truck as a defense against being rear-ended, a fate that at least two of my prior vehicles suffered with considerable damage. Several readers took me to task for having the hitch installed for defensive purposes, but what I saw at the bus stop validated my position. If you are going to rear-end my pickup, your car will have to eat that hitch before you do any damage to my rear bumper.
The point of view of those criticizing my trailer hitch astounds me. Their attitude, in its essence, boils down to the following: "It is almost a total certainty that I will eventually run into the rear of another vehicle. After all, accidents happen, and I surely am going to hit somebody. When I do, I want their vehicle to crumple and fold like an accordion so that neither my kids, my wife, nor I get hurt. And I resent the fact that someone would install a trailer hitch to fend me off. That means they value the steel and plastic of their vehicle more than they value the health and welfare of my kids, my wife, and me."
So, do I really value my vehicle more than the careless driver's family? Hmmm. Don't back me into a corner on that one. What I know for sure is that I am sick and tired of having my vehicles rear-ended by careless drivers. And the ultimate solution is so simple. Put away the cell phone and pay attention to your driving. Just don't hit me. I say again: Don't hit me!
While we are on the subject of driving, let me point out that the attorney general of the United States is always a lawyer, the surgeon general is always a doctor, and the Secretary of the Treasury is usually a banker or businessman. But why is the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never a driver? I don't mean a driver in the sense of having the no-brainer $10 driver's license that most states issue. I mean someone who has driven professionally or at least has an affinity for and knowledge of automobiles.
Right now, the head of the HTSA is a medical doctor. And he seems to be continuing the tradition of the government promoting nerdlike control of vehicle design. I would like to see this position held by the likes of Michael Waltrip, Jimmie Johnson, Robby Gordon, or some other NASCAR, IRL, or CART race-car driver. Or even just a guy who drives a taxi or 18-wheeler would be OK. I hate seeing vehicle regulations being set by chauffeur-driven people who don't appreciate cars or have any knowledge about them.