behind the wheel

There have been lots of studies looking into the causes of traffic accidents. They all come to the same conclusion—the overwhelming reason we get in crashes is driver error. The best thing about the computerization of cars, then, is precisely the thing we find most terrifying: Software is beginning to override human control. We are the most dangerous parts of the cars we drive. The less driving people do, the fewer people will die on the roads.

- I'm Sorry, Dave, I'm Afraid I Can't Make a U-Turn. Should we be worried that our cars are controlled by software?

In other words, intentional acceleration is a far bigger problem than unintentional acceleration. Unfortunately, it is far easier to regulate and recall faulty vehicles than faulty drivers. In the United States, for example, it seems virtually impossible for the even the most wantonly reckless driver to lose his driving privileges. One Illinois study identified 160 drivers on the road statewide with five DUI convictions on record. Study newspaper coverage of crashes, and the passive voice—and a tendency to avoid directly implicating a driver—dominates. A minor semantic point, perhaps, but studies suggest the passive voice can reduce a person's perception of perpetrator blame in a crime.

- Do Recalls Really Make Us Safer? Bad drivers are far more dangerous than bum Toyotas.