Where has common sense gone?

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I just read that there will be yet another recall on Chrysler vehicles because of their eight-speed electronic shifters. Most will read this and pass it off as another issue with quality control and chalk it up to another failed product from a large manufacturer. The problem is that this is not the issue being addressed. In fact, the shifter works as it was intended to, and in my opinion does it well.

I personally own a Charger with the shifter in question, and for the life of me, I cannot understand how people can blame a manufacturer for their own incompetence. Let me give a brief explanation. The electronic shifter is spring-loaded and returns to the center position after you have selected your driving position. The complaints have been that people have left their running vehicles while the transmission was in drive and the car continued to move forward while they were exiting the car. As in any other car, there is a notification on the dash as well as the shifter itself that the car is in gear. Furthermore, after you have used the shifter more than once you can feel the bump steps just as you do in the traditional gate styled shifters. So the problem is with the drivers who do not take the time to actually put the car in park. So in short, it is operator error and not the automaker’s faulty parts.

After a stern shaking of my head to an uncaring computer monitor, I channeled my disgust towards the real culprit behind the recall. The general motoring populous has gotten so numb to the whole driving experience that they expect their cars to do the thinking for them. At what point did we stop driving and take our safety for granted? I remember being taught to drive with my head and be aware of my surroundings. Perhaps it is all the unnecessary distractions we have today with the vast electronic clutter. Or maybe the technological advances have made our input obsolete. The verdict is still out on the obsolescence.

As old car enthusiasts we know our cars inside and out and can tell when something is not working correctly and drive according to each car’s idiosyncrasies. Let’s face it, driving is a privilege and we understand that it consists of more than turning the key and away you go. For those of us who remember the days before anti-lock and disc brakes, it was an ongoing mathematical exercise balancing your speed and distance in hopes that you could pump the brakes and stop in time. We have a connection with our cars and respect their power and handling. With all the conveniences in newer cars a lot of that connection appears to have been lost.

I have two children that are on the cusp of driving, and I am not going to lie…it frightens me. I try to make it a point to get them involved in the mundane aspects of owning a car, like rotating tires and changing the oil. They need to gain an appreciation for what goes into maintaining a car and an understanding of how the parts work together. It is not an easy task with hectic schedules and the allure of electronic trinkets battling for their attention. The idea of teenagers getting their hands dirty working on the family truckster is a tough sell. What I have noticed is that once they actually get their hands on the tools they seem to put up less of a hassle. My theory behind this hands-on involvement is not to make them into mechanics, but to give them a better understanding of their vehicles. I am hoping this will translate into becoming better drivers on the road.

With our “too quick to point fingers” mentality these days we have to stand back and re-evaluate our responsibility as car owners and drivers. Maybe it would do us all some good to jump in an old car and truly “drive” again.

If you have kids or grandchildren, get them involved with your cars, new or old, so the act of driving includes a connection with the car and a little good old-fashioned common sense. If you play your cards right they might even be able to shift into park before leaving their running car someday.

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