By Bob Blake
Since the advent of the American automobile, owners have sought gadgets for their cars. Add-ons like turn signals, brake lights, dimming headlights and rear view mirrors are essential, but others are now consider dangerous…or comical.
Child safety has improved dramatically. Age-dependent car seats save thousands of children from severe injury and death each year. A glance down the road a hundred of years ago, however, revealed a different picture. The 1908 Nathan Comfy Crib was a simple basket that dangled by springs hung from the inside supports of the car top. The child jostled up and down with each rut in the road. Imagine the fright the helpless child experienced, seeing only the canvas top and bouncing up and down with each rut in the road and mother exclaiming, “Why is my baby crying…must be a case of colic!”
The 1960s were not much better. I well remember the adapting a PortaCrib® across the back seat of our Ford Falcon before our trip to California – no seatbelts and scant protective cushioning! We even brought her home from the hospital in a front facing plastic car seat!
Aside from safety, we have made great strides in auto theft. In the 1920s, the Akron, Ohio Bosco Company advertised the Collapsible Rubber Driver as a sure fire way to deter burglars. They sold a full size fake blow-up man the owner placed behind the steering wheel when he left the car. The advertisement said, “No thief ever attempted to steal a car with a man at the wheel…it is so lifelike and terrifying nobody a foot away can tell it isn’t a real live man!” Despite the fact this dummy never moved or blinked, and looked like a comic strip character, “his” mere presence was supposed to deter car thieves. Recently, however, I recall a nearby town – short on police officers – placing a mannequin in the driver’s seat of a parked patrol car.
Despite the escalating number of cars and the millions of miles driven each year, the use of age related car seats, seat belts, air bags and headrests remain the most effective additions to automobile safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) reported in one year frontal air bags saved 25,782 lives but added “Seat belts remain the most potent weapon in reducing collision-caused fatalities and injuries.” Car thefts have also declined…even without the use of the Bosco Blow-up Man!