Car accessories can be dangerous, are you kidding?

Car accessories can be dangerous, are you kidding?

A car is not just a car, for many people, it is an extension of a driver. Everybody is unique and independent. And most people want their cars to be special and unique. To them, they are not only transportation vehicles, but also their partners and a part of their life.
With a car, if you can dream it, you can do it, from lifting, resculpting and refitting to an almost infinite number and variety of add-ons.
But beware: While manufacturers build with safety in mind, standards are less strict for aftermarket accessories and sometimes nonexistent for DIY projects. When adding personality to your vehicle, be sure you aren’t also adding danger. Let’s take a look at some risky car accessories.
Colored Fog Lights
The thought on colored fog lights runs something like this: White light, made up of all the colors in the light spectrum, refracts through fog in weird and wild ways, lighting up the foggy sky in front of you like a bright, blank screen. But yellow light (with a longer wavelength and high sensitivity by the human eye) refracts in only one way, so while fog continues to make things a little blurry, using yellow light cuts through the fog much better than your manufacturer-issued headlights.
Unfortunately, that’s not true. The Ask a Scientist program at the U.S. Department of Energy explains that for a variety of reasons (including the relatively large size of fog droplets when compared with wavelengths of light), the only advantage of yellow fog lights is that they may look better to some people [source: Barrans].
And they have a distinct disadvantage: distracting oncoming drivers. Perhaps you think it’s reasonable to draw the attention of drivers behind and around you, but do you really want to distract a driver who’s heading straight at you?
Dash-mounted TV Screens
White light, made up of all the colors in the light spectrum, refracts through fog in weird and wild ways, lighting up the foggy sky in front of you like a bright, blank screen. But yellow light (with a longer wavelength and high sensitivity by the human eye) refracts in only one way, so while fog continues to make things a little blurry, using yellow light cuts through the fog much better than your manufacturer-issued headlights.
Unfortunately, that’s not true. The Ask a Scientist program at the U.S. Department of Energy explains that for a variety of reasons (including the relatively large size of fog droplets when compared with wavelengths of light), the only advantage of yellow fog lights is that they may look better to some people [source: Barrans].
And they have a distinct disadvantage: distracting oncoming drivers. Perhaps you think it’s reasonable to draw the attention of drivers behind and around you, but do you really want to distract a driver who’s heading straight at you?
A 2009 Nielsen report found that the average American watches 151 hours of television per month [source: Gandossy]. You can do the math: That’s about 5 hours of TV every day. And today more than ever, Americans are even unwilling to unplug in the car.
It takes only a quick online search to find a plethora of DIY, how-to articles teaching drivers to install TV screens either in holes in the dashboard commonly occupied by radios or as stand-alone monitors that sit atop the dashboard.
Unfortunately, these screens are not only for backseat child viewing and for passenger entertainment anymore.
States like Virginia and Illinois expressly prohibit the installation of television viewing systems in the front areas of cars, and more states are following suit. But do you really need a law to tell you this is a bad idea? Unplug from the tube for the time it takes you to get from point A to point B, and you and your fellow drivers will be much safer.
GPS Systems
Sure, a GPS is a distraction, but you have to know where you’re going, and it’s better than trying to read a map while zipping down the road, right? Wrong. A study by Privilege Insurance found that 19 percent of GPS users were distracted when driving as opposed to only 17 percent of traditional map users [source: Oswald].
While much of this distraction can be remedied by practicing with your GPS and programming a destination prior to take off, an aftermarket GPS introduces two more dangers: the limited sight line and the projectile. If you didn’t see that stepladder in the middle of the road, it could be because in that critical split second, your view was blocked by your dash-mounted GPS. And that suction cup is unlikely to keep your GPS screen attached to the dash in a crash, rendering it a potentially dangerous projectile.
Think again before installing a GPS. And if you need food for thought, check out this episode of Mythbusters, which explores the power of in-car projectiles.
In-car Microwave
While not especially prevalent, the microwave powered by your car’s cigarette lighter plug-in is both so awesome and so obviously a bad idea that this list would simply be incomplete without it. With so many commuters stuck in traffic and trying to multitask on the way to work, a surprising number of manufacturers have jumped into mini-microwave creation [source: Houston].
In fact, the mini microwave of death is but one in a category of dangerous in-car appliances that allow you to do things in your vehicle that you really should have done at home, including refrigerators, popcorn poppers, Wi-Fi routers, a range of personal grooming equipment and, of course, coffee makers. Your car should be for getting you from place to place, not for preparing meals and going through your daily getting-ready-for-work routine.
Though not technically an in-car accessory, some have even tried the addition of an under-car deep fryer, which also seems like a recipe for disaster.
Musical Car Horn
There are a number of ways to make nearly any song you want come out of your smart phone. Now the same is true of car horns. For example, the Web site zercustoms.com allows you to install and then download a car horn system that plays selections from a variety of themes, including Christmas, reggae or tailgate. Some musical car horns are even set up to play MP3s [source: GizMike].
Note that these systems are different from car PA systems, in which you play or speak whatever you like through a handheld microphone system. No, these musical car horns augment or replace your car’s existing horn.
Imagine a driver drifting into your lane on the freeway, at which point you go to warn him with your horn — only it plays Lady Gaga. Do you think this driver is more likely to get out of the way immediately or to be distracted and make a critical error? There are enough distractions on the road without adding musical horns to the mix.

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