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Author: Belinda Mary Osgood


It is with concern that I notice a large sector of society over-committing themselves financially. It is increasingly noticeable that few people can actually afford the cars they drive. Noticeable, because purchasers are having to forego the usual safety features one would normally expect on a motor vehicle. The car owners, having paid out their hard-earned cash, can simply not afford such luxuries. One could imagine that the problem I am relating is applicable to those modes of transportation with an elevated price tag--high performance vehicles such as BMW's, Porsches, and the like. On the contrary, evidence points to this being an issue that has no respect for barriers of income or education. Why do I say this? Let me tell you of my observations.

New cars seem to lack indicators. Many vehicles now only come equipped with the coloured plastic or glass lenses to ensure that they look good, but the functioning parts have been removed to save a few pennies. Every time I see a car make an unsignalled turn directly in front of me as I hurtle 100 kilometers an hour towards it, I think "Poor fellow, he's over-extended on his capital." Everything from a sports car to a beat-up truck is appearing without the humble blinker connections.

This phenomenon is spreading at an alarming rate. Not only has it gone into every sector of society, but is also affecting numerous other vehicle features that were once considered standard fare. Side and rear-view mirrors are lacking, being replaced with cheap, non-reflective plastic instead. The few cents saved in this area allows them the flexibility to change lanes, hold up traffic, cut off cyclists and ignore the police car following behind with it's flashing lights, all without undue concern. "I'm sorry officer, I just didn't see you behind me, and I didn't hear you either as the stereo was on quite loud." 'Cut-back' is a concept which should never be applied to a motorist's sound system!

To further support my case, there is the unusually large number of cars that I see with only one headlight going. Headlights are, I agree, fairly expensive to replace. The cost of a bulb can set you back a mighty $19.00. Money that is ill-afforded these days when that same amount will provide the vital rejuvenation of a ticket to the movies and popcorn.

Perhaps more telling, and a more annoying example of the headlight dilemma, is the sharp increase in vehicles available without dimmers fitted on the headlights. Owners are opting for the reduced cost of full beam lights, instead of the much more expensive dual operational lights. Faced with an oncoming vehicle around a sharp corner on a road you do not know--a swampy ditch on one side and a rocky cliff face on the other--you can be quite compassionate on the poor under-financed individual coming towards you, with lights that could be seen on Jupiter.

Brakes are another victim of this tendency for cost cutting. Many hapless drivers are travelling around our cities, seemingly so impoverished, that the brakes have been sold to buy the latest mobile phone faceplate. So, as I stare at the vehicle roaring through the red light in front of me, I think that I should donate a few dollars to "HILDAZ" so that she can invest in some brakes - the name kindly provided by the lovely personalised plate adorning the bumper. Of course, Hilda does not acknowledge my gesture of goodwill, since she is locked in some life or death conversation on her cell. It is no wonder the road statistics are so high when stopping a car necessitates the presence of another object in its path - be it car, fence, ditch, or streetlight. I am ashamed to say that most other motorists on our roads who are equipped with brakes are not assisting these people, When they could be offering their vehicles as a stopping mechanism for brake-less fellows, they are, instead, waiting for inordinate amounts of time to pull away when the light turns green, ensuring that they are not tainted by association with poorer citizens. Thus the hard-up person without brakes continues to careen at excessive speeds through populated areas, red traffic lights, and pedestrian crossings, with no fault to their own person.

A further sign of financial over-commitment on a vehicle is viewed in the lack of maintenance. You need only take a stroll through a parking lot to take note of how many vehicles are outside of the warranty, or registration, often both. Another very visible sign of this is the emissions cast in our faces, almost as if they are gloating about their lack of solvency. Or perhaps it is a silent, yet pungent plea for assistance. When next a vehicle shrouds you in the filth of exhaust, perhaps you should make a diary note to pay your respects at the vehicle's inevitable upcoming funeral.

These are just my observations and I cringe to think what other, unobservable signs there may be of this pervasive problem on our roadways. There may be symptoms of financial hardship which are not so easily seen on a daily tour of the city.

When will this slide into poverty cease? How long can we support people who cannot afford fully functioning vehicles? I just pray that every person on the road will put aside their frustrations and spare a compassionate thought for the under-privileged on our roads. In this way, our streets will be safer for all.

About the Author

Belinda Osgood is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/which is a site for Writers. Observations of life and the environment in rural New Zealand regularly feature in her poetry, articles, and short stories.

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