QMCS Tom Rau, USCGR Memorial Scholarship 2020
Prompt: Do automatic safety features in automobiles enhance safety or encourage distracted driving and a further erosion of basic driving skills?
While automatic safety features in automobiles do enhance safety, they also encourage overconfidence. This causes both positive and negative feedback. For example, Forbes magazine boasts of the “Top 7 Car Safety Features You Cannot Do Without” including automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, and rear-view cameras. While all of these tools are useful, no technology comes without consequences. Most drivers do not understand the limitations that go with their safety features, often using them at times when they are unnecessary. There are both pros and cons to safety features in automobiles; while they can be useful, it is impossible to rely on them fully.
As new vehicles are released, new qualities entice consumers to buy them. Tesla has introduced impressive features such as self-driving and unbreakable windows. Tesla’s “unbreakable windows” were debunked during a public demonstration, and there have been multiple accounts of flaws in the self-driving system. The Wall Street Journal mentions that even automatic braking technology has caused multiple accidents: “Drivers have reported several hundred incidents to U.S. regulators in recent years of these brakes malfunctioning or not deploying properly….” While these features highlight technological advancement, they come with repercussions.
Contrarily, some automatic safety features encourage safer driving practices. For example, most vehicles today have seatbelt alert systems that notify the driver when they are not wearing a seatbelt. The relentless ding usually successfully ensures everyone stays buckled. Features such as hands-free devices also have proven to be useful. Usually with a few spoken words, a number can be dialed safely, but talking on the phone while driving can still distract the driver. Back-up cameras are another feature commonly used; areas that are typically in the “blind spot” of a driver can be made visible when backing up.
So, do drivers rely too heavily on their safety features? Statistics from Medical Express suggest “yes”. Medical Express states that "When properly utilized...technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths.” The source states that there was a 5% increase in accidents between 2015 and 2016, potentially from the rise of new technology. They found that 80% of drivers didn’t know the limitations of blind-spot detectors, and 40% didn’t know the limitations of forward collision warnings. The majority of drivers said they felt more comfortable multi-tasking while driving with the assistance of safety features. Although safety features have the potential to drastically reduce accidents, they usually aren’t used properly and cause overconfidence.
Automatic safety features have become a priority over the past few years. Multiple benefits work in favor of demand including seatbelt warnings, back-up cameras, and hands-free communication. However, most people do not understand the limitations of the features. When used properly, they increase vehicular safety. Additionally, technology is known to malfunction which has caused preventable accidents. Safety features are not useless. In order for them to be advantageous, people must not rely too heavily on the features that may or may not save their lives.
Foldy, Ben. "As Automatic Braking Becomes More Common In Cars, So Do Driver Complaints". WSJ, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-automatic-brakes-become-common-so-do-driver-complaints-11566898205.
"Many Drivers Rely Too Much On New Car Safety Features". Medicalxpress.Com, 2020, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-drivers-car-safety-features.html.
"The Top 7 Car Safety Features You Cannot Do Without". Forbes.Com, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterlyon/2018/05/31/the-top-7-car-safety-features-you-cannot-do-without/#47da8fed5fc0.
Nicholas Fiore with His Winners Check
QMCS Tom Rau, USCGR Memorial Scholarship 2020
Continued Presence of the Coast Guard in the Arctic via Nuclear-Powered Ice Breakers
As arctic sea ice decreases demand for exploration and resource acquisition has increased, making for a more crowded arctic than ever before. This has called for an increase in the presence of an authority capable of enforcing international order and maritime law. The United States Coast Guard has put forth an effort to be that source of authority for the United States and her allies abroad. In order to be said authority technology is required to be able to maintain a constant presence in the arctic, namely nuclear-powered ice breakers. By examining the arctic strategic outlook of the U.S. Coast Guard and the effects nuclear-powered ice breakers have on the environment we can see that maintaining a fleet of said ice breakers will be beneficial.
As laid out in the 2019 “United States Coast Guard Arctic Strategic Outlook” the USCG has outlined the need for a long-term presence in the arctic. Considering climate changes that have opened new commercial opportunities a higher demand will be present for services offered by the Coast Guard. Access to people and places in the arctic will be a requirement and said access can be provided via the presence of nuclear-powered icebreakers. These vessels can aid in maintaining the physical presence of the USCG and will help to fill a strategic gap between the United States and other arctic nations .
Another aspect of the USCG Arctic Strategic Outlook is to establish a permanent awareness and understanding of the arctic domain . The USCG has been assigned responsibility for the Nation’s Arctic awareness, requiring a constant presence to perform reconnaissance and observational activities. The existence of a fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers would allow the USCG access to areas of the arctic requiring such oversight. Without such maintaining a constant presence to achieve these requirements would be both costly and dangerous.
An argument can be made that nuclear-powered icebreakers are too cost prohibitive or have detrimental effects on the arctic ecosystem. This could not be further from the truth. One of the largest nuclear-powered icebreakers in the world, Russia’s “50 Let Pobedy” would be required to burn 100 tons of fuel a day if she were diesel-powered. Instead she only burns around a pound of uranium . By sheer volume the cost in fuel is much lower than if she was conventionally powered. The impact nuclear-powered icebreakers have on their surroundings is also negligible. Arctic sea ice decreases by roughly 3.5 million square miles during the melt season, whereas a nuclear-powered icebreaker only opens 3.9 square miles .
In order to maintain a presence of authority the USCG requires access to arctic waters. The existence of a fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers would ensure that presence is maintained. This will only help to provide order and protection for other vessels and peoples of the arctic while remaining economically feasible and safe for the ecosystem.
1. “United States Coast Guard Arctic Strategic Outlook,” April 2019, Retrieved from
2. Blain, L. (2011, December 20). How nuclear icebreakers work - and the reversible ships that will replace them. Retrieved from https://newatlas.com/nuclear-icebreakers-double-acting-ships-azipods/20903/
3. “Are icebreakers changing the climate?” Retrieved from https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/icelights/2012/04/are-icebreakers-changing-climate
Chapter Vice President MKC Brian Light Presents the Winning Check to His Daughter Emily
2020 QMCS Tom Rau Memorial Scholarship Winners