Stress Can, Will, and Does Put Drivers in Danger

In our last post, we discussed the gap in the knowledge of automotive technology in first responders, as represented by a video from the and YouTube. It featured a man pulled over in his Tesla for having a computer mounted on his dashboard.

But as we thought more about this, the video painted a very clear picture of how people tend to react to stressful situations.


Model 3 screenThe driver pulled over describes the computer as “his only center console” when he clearly meant something else and stated that it handles his air conditioning.

In truth, it is the car’s entire instrument panel! The screen offers control of everything, as well as a view to the functioning of the car, and mapping, etc. The center console is simply not in play.

Thank youSome weeks earlier, we had received this thank you (right) for one of our videos, covering a Mini in this case.  We’ve transcribed it here, ‘as is’.

“Thank you 73 year old lady, 2013 mini nervous and panicked in parking lot with dead FOB yesterday. Your video heloed get everything up and running. Hard to read a manual with out reading glasses in stress situation. Thank you again.”

She describes perfectly the difficulty people face solving a problem and reading a manual while under stress. And stress is the central theme.

She identifies herself as 73, and the stress is due to the all too common key fob problem that we put a great deal of emphasis on here at The video we discussed earlier puts the stress of being pulled over on full display.

But first we also get to once again dispel the ageism myth. The driver in the video is clearly quite young and still stutters and stammers his way through his interactions with the police officer.

This reaction to stress happens to us all irrespective of age, and returns us to our primary thesis. The relentless increase in automotive technology continues to outpace driver knowledge. And for those of you tempted to blame the driver for lack of effort, we will repeat that all of us learn by use and repetition, and if a new problem crops up, it will make little difference whether or not the driver has read about it in the manual months earlier.

And it is all too often the little things — and things that could easily be removed from the equation, taking us back to key fobs. If the battery in the fob dies, there is a back up plan, but there is no standardization. We know of and have documented exposing hidden keys holes from 15 manufacturers, a dozen variations for retrieving the standard ‘hard’ key from the fob, and over 50 distinct starting variations.

The hidden key holes are a particularly pointless exercise intended only to make a square inch of the car prettier. What it does in truth is leave drivers with dead key fobs vulnerable outside of their cars, fumbling for a mechanical key and trying to expose a lock cylinder. Will it happen on a warm summer day at home? Most likely it will be dark, rainy, cold, snowy, or in a parking garage with cell service blocked.

Make no mistake, these are safety issues and the responsibility lies with the manufacturer to make getting in to the relative safety of the car as easy as possible, and the majority of manufacturers are failing.

At the very least, once inside a manual can be consulted to get help to get the car started, but remember that stress is still in play.


FOB messageOnly a few manufacturers give a useful message if starting the car fails as shown to the right. And while we had at one time hoped that the industry would move to make this clear in every vehicle, most still simply refer the driver to the manual.

Unfortunately, it will take someone getting hurt or worse, or a manufacturer getting sued before this will change, and even if it does, there will be millions of vehicles already on the road holding tight to the old ways.

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