I was driving south on I-25 through Denver during the morning rush hour. It had been raining on and off, so sections of the highway were completely wet, though traffic was moving almost as fast as it ever does. I was in the #2 lane, assuming the fast lane is #1. I saw a blue Subaru coming up fast, but instead of traveling in either #1 or #2, it was traveling directly over the lane marking between them. I quickly changed lanes into #3 and watched the car just in case I needed to move over into yet another lane. As it passed, still straddling the two lanes, though it had moved a little more into #1, I saw that the driver was a woman in her early 20s. She was holding a smartphone over the center of the steering wheel, with her eyes glued to its display.
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The day before had seen some snow. By this time, snowplows had done as much as they could on I-25, though there were still some snowy patches where the sun was blocked by the median fence. I was traveling in lane #2, keeping about five car lengths behind the car in front of me. Traffic started to speed up a little, but something told me that I should not follow the herd. Perhaps I was remembering past snow days. I maintained my speed, with the increased herd speed resulting in the distance between me and the car in front doubling. The car traveling behind me did exactly the same thing, maintaining the previous speed, with his car being five or more car lengths behind me.
All of a sudden I saw brake lights flash red on the ten or so cars in front of me. Then I saw the pavement disappear and a snowy patch take its place. Those cars slowed abruptly, meaning that many of them were being involved in accidents. I hit the brakes, but the extra distance I had left enabled me to stop a few car lengths behind the car in front of me. The guy behind me did the same thing. After I came to a complete stop, I looked around and waited patiently for a chance to change lanes. The guy behind me must have thinking exactly the same thing, as he and I changed lanes at the same time and left the pileup behind. After I changed lanes, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw a number of people emerging from their cars both behind and in front of where I had been. The two of us had been an island of calm in a sea of twisted metal.
Those who believe that self-driving cars will always be able to safely draft each other like stock cars are just fooling themselves.
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I know some people who work in auto dealerships and have for many years. They told me that in years past, the summer was a slow time for body shops, as there were no accidents due to snow, though there were sometimes many cars damaged because of hail. But now summers are just about as busy as winters.
Over the past two years, there has been a 14% increase in traffic fatalities, the largest in more than a half a century. Millennials have no idea what cars were like 50 years ago, but here's a few clues. Cars had basic seat belts, with few having shoulder belts. Airbags were barely on the drawing board, as they were introduced in the 1970s, becoming widespread in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Dashboards were made of metal and often had protruding edges for people to hit when flying forward during an accident. Steering columns often impaled drivers. Many people did not even wear seat belts, insanely believing that it would be better to be "thrown clear," with that usually resulting in one's head breaking the windshield.
Cars get safer every year, so the only reason for the fatality increase is cellphone use, especially texting while driving.