1990: Driving Cars

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Driving Cars
It's probably just me. If driving were as dangerous as it seems, hundreds of people would be dying every day!
Title text: It's probably just me. If driving were as dangerous as it seems, hundreds of people would be dying every day!


This comic is about how dangerous cars are. Cueball observes that it is a giant machine, and that he is able to accelerate it up to terrifying speeds simply because he once took a brief driving test. Note that the length and complexity of a driving test varies greatly per country. 20 minutes would be fairly normal for the USA, but much shorter than what is required in most other Western countries. However, it should be noted that you sometimes have to retake the test if your drivers license has expired, so the "just because I took a twenty minute test in high school" part is partially incorrect.

This is similar to other comics, such as 1075: Warning and 722: Computer Problems, where Randall comments on how some of our routine, everyday tasks are quite unusual when viewed from a reductionist perspective. This subject has been covered in the many comics about Self-driving cars. Although this comic is not directly about such cars, the reference to Cueball steering with his hands could be seen as being in contrast with letting a computer drive (which is much safer). The joke is that driving is in fact one of the top five most common causes of death, yet many (most?) people do not think of driving as an especially "scary" or "dangerous" activity.

The rest of the joke is in the title text, "It's probably just me. If driving were as dangerous as it seems, hundreds of people would be dying every day!" This statement is ironic, drawing attention to the fact that many people (over 3,000 per day world-wide, about 100 per day in the USA) do in fact die in car crashes. These statistics indicate that driving is as dangerous as Cueball thinks it seems; it is not just him perceiving it that way. As a matter of fact, in most regions of the US, automotive accidents are the leading cause of death for people aged 18 to 35. It's also worth noting that a difficult-to-estimate number of people die prematurely as a consequence of pollution caused by cars, but this isn't mentioned in the comic and pollution is not unique to automobiles.

In the background, behind Cueball, there is a low-contrast, sloppy drawing of Cueball. This is probably a mistake on Randall’s part.


[Cueball stands in front of a car holding his hands together in front of him.]
Cueball: Time to accelerate this giant machine up to terrifying speeds and steer it using my hands, which I am allowed to do because I took a 20-minute test in high school!
[Caption below the panel:]
Driving freaks me out.


Color balance adjusted to bring out Cueball's ghastly spirit
  • A faded Cueball is visible overlapping and to the left of Cueball in the comic picture. This may be a previous draft that Randall drew on top of.

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Am I seeing things or is there a slight shadow figure behind cueball? Cgrimes85 (talk) 17:51, 7 May 2018 (UTC)

You're not seeing things. It's a bigger Cueball, and its colors are colors like F9F9F9 and F8F8F8. Grabadora304 (talk) 18:01, 7 May 2018 (UTC)
That's very odd, someone mentioned this may have been from a draft. Have we seen anything like this before? Does anyone know Randall's actual drawing process? Cgrimes85 (talk) 19:24, 7 May 2018 (UTC)
I saw nothing on my iPad, until I brightened the display to maximum AND zoomed in. Then I saw this faded Cueball to the left of him (not above like the description says, or bigger like Grabadora said here, but the exact same size and exact same pose. If he were in the comic drawn in black, he'd be described as directly behind Cueball). Before I saw it I wondered if Randall draws these on paper then scans them, in which case this could be bleed through from another page behind. But of course it's more likely he draws on a computer. Now that I've seen it... Same size, same pose suggests to me Randall Cut & Pasted Cueball, but his background drawing colour wasn't QUITE white when he did this, so this not-quite-white replaced Cueball where he was, leaving a "ghost" Cueball. EDIT: Okay, checking again, from his ankles to his upper arms, he's the same size, but shoulders and up he's bigger, his neck ending higher and his head bigger. Maybe Randall felt he made the head too big, to put it next to the speech bubble line, so he moved Cueball closer to make the head the right size. I also note the head's circle is more casual, with the ends not meeting, like most people would draw a circle. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:48, 8 May 2018 (UTC)

This comic may also be an indirect commentary on the concern some people have about the safety of self-driving cars, which may in fact be more capable of safe driving than someone who took a 20-minute test in high school. Maybe their concern about safety is misplaced! Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 19:19, 7 May 2018 (UTC)

We have 10-12 90-minute evening lectures, a 40-minute multiple-choice test, plus 10 mandatory hours of training behind the wheel and a half-hour practical examination, but I'm really not sure to which side I want to lean with autonomous cars ... ;-) -- 20:08, 7 May 2018 (UTC)
While it varies dramatically by state, I think Randall is generally referencing the licensing practices in the US, which are definitely lax compared to Europe/Australia but probably more stringent than less-developed nations. Cgrimes85 (talk) 20:38, 7 May 2018 (UTC)
In the state of Colorado, USA, I took a ~5 minute multiple-choice test & a ~12 minute driving test, with no other requirement except possession of a learner's-permit. No driver's education classes, no formal training at all. Just pay the fee, fill the form, take a perfunctory test (drive around the block) & drive away with a license. This was around 1998, if I recall correctly. ProphetZarquon (talk) 00:22, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
Back in 1993, here in Canada, my requirements were a bit more slack than they are now, but stricter than that. I feel like we had to do about 20-30 minutes on the multiple choice theory exam, and the practical felt longer (though the stress might have made it feel long and it only WAS 12 minutes). I know the practical test was rather strict, I failed a couple of times for silly reasons - I remember once the examiner felt the need to show me where my blind spots were, I later realized that I had accidentally developed the habit of using my peripheral vision to check them, to maximize how much I keep my eyes on the road, so when he was watching he missed when I checked them. I know the rules are stricter because they changed them BEFORE I got my license, I was allowed to slip past the new rules because I had my learner's permit before - I know one rule I skipped was that new drivers got probationary licenses for 2 years or until turning 25, whichever came first. I know driving school is mandatory now (you have to register for the driver's test through your school), while I optionally took it, and I took an advanced, extra-safe school called Young Drivers Of Canada. It was something like 10 classroom sessions of I think an hour each, and something like 10 practical lessons in a car of an hour each. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:48, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
In Colorado these days you need to drive with a licensed adult in the car for 50 hours and wait a year once you get the permit before you can take the test, at least if you are under 21 or something. If you want to get the permit before you are 17, I think you need to take a class. These rules are actually really complicated and have like 6 different age groups that all have different requirements. Still not that hard to get a license, you can even fake the 50 hours if you want to. Probably not Douglas Hofstadter (talk) 04:00, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
I'm looking forward to legally using my cellphone while driving, but not to major security vulnerabilities becoming public in my car's firmware. I worry what a distant hacker could find funny. 01:13, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
Some cars can already be turned off on the road or can even have brakes applied. You can hack your car and set the root password to something other than the default, though that doesn't help if the guy in front of you gets hacked. Probably not Douglas Hofstadter (talk) 04:00, 8 May 2018 (UTC)

Is the transcript still "incomplete"? Cgrimes85 (talk) 20:04, 7 May 2018 (UTC)

I've removed the tag. But maybe he "rubs his hands"? Any thoughts? --Dgbrt (talk) 20:26, 7 May 2018 (UTC)

Anyone know the brand of car? 20:10, 7 May 2018 (UTC)

Looks kind of like a Prius? (Source: absolutely not a car guy in any sense of the term) Cgrimes85 (talk) 20:36, 7 May 2018 (UTC)
Definitely looks like a Prius to me. ProphetZarquon (talk) 00:22, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
IDK, I feel like I usually see Priuses depicted shorter, perhaps even two-door (my main reference being Brian's car in Family Guy) NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:48, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
Look at the triangular window near the front windshield. Some prius's have that, but it is usually smaller or filled in with plastic. I know that some Honda Fits have a window that looks a lot like it, but the back of those cars is flatter than the one in the picture. Probably not Douglas Hofstadter (talk) 15:18, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
Randal used this image (or similar) of a Prius to trace/draw the car: https://www.toyota.com/imgix/responsive/images/mlp/colorizer/2018/prius/3T7/4.png?q=85&fm=jpg&w=1024&fit=max&cs=strip&bg=fff

While cars are significant source of pollution, it would IMHO be hard to identify anyone dying prematurely just due to them (especially if you want to take JUST cars and not trucks); most likely, it's the total amount of pollution being bigger than your ability to deal with it killing you, not any specific pollution. So I'm pretty sure the joke is in amount of people dying in car accidents.

And BTW, the reason people generally don't see driving is scary is because 90% of drivers thinks they are in the 10% of best drivers and that accidents only happen to bad drivers, which is both obviously incorrect. Nevertheless, yes, if "having cars" and "not having cars" would be only options, it would be worth it. In reality, we COULD make driving safer by skipping unnecessary trips and by lot of other measures ...

wrong on two accounts. 1) the statistic you give is “ex rectum” (Latin for “you pulled it out of your ass”) and 2) the reason more than half of drivers think they are better than average is because there are multiple dimensions on which to evaluate driving skill and different drivers weight those dimensions differently. For example, I weight achieving good fuel economy highly, other drivers weight getting to their destination in the shortest possible time highly. One driver cannot excel on both dimensions at the same time, but if I get good mileage and weigh that highly then I am better than average, and the person who is adept and weaving in and out of traffic is better than the average driver at getting to the destination sooner, and is better than average. Yet, clearly we aren’t both better than average when using the same metric (either fuel economy or time). We are each individually better at the skills we think more important to “good driving” and since our own views of what constitutes a good driver reflects our own strengths rather than weaknesses then naturally more than half of us believe ourselves better than average, because we define what it means to be average. 04:19, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
That wasn't even SUPPOSED to be statistics and I though it's clear from context fuel economy is not what I'm speaking about. I'm speaking about SAFETY. And while speed is related to safety, I would be surprised if any driver would THINK he is driving dangerously fast, no matter how fast he drivers. (And BTW, you didn't addressed the second point - namely, that no matter how good driver you are, you can still be killed in accident caused by other driver in way you couldn't possibly prevent.) -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:19, 9 May 2018 (UTC)

... which reminds me, those big patriotic american cars are actually SAFER than small cars. They consume more oil, but they protect driver better in crash. -- Hkmaly (talk) 06:42, 8 May 2018 (UTC)

I'll just leave this right here. Cgrimes85 (talk) 13:43, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
Which is just unfair for those who cannot afford it, but either dye when run into by these or from their extra pollution... :) See 677: Asshole. --Kynde (talk) 13:42, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
yet in 2015 more people died in Ford F-150’s than in Toyota Camry’s, Honda Accord’s, Ford Taurus’s and Ford Fusion’s combined.
Just a note that statistics and data could probably be used to pretty much isolate the decrease in lifespan due to car pollution if you could gather diverse enough deaths data such that things correlated with auto pollution are represented in a fair way. 22:50, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
Actually it seems that Volvo's XC60 is the safest car on the road, based on its performance in crash tests. Apparently no one has died in a crash while driving it, despite 500,000+ sold. Herobrine (talk) 00:19, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
ugh, you sound like Rush Limbaugh bragging about his “death proof” Mercedes. While the XC60 may be very safe, to extrapolate that it is the “safest car on the road” seems a stretch when there are barely 50,000 on the road. A valid comparison would need to (at the very least) take in to account total vehicle miles driven, and then there is the divide by zero problem of extrapolation when there has been “none” of something. Is car X with 1 death and 100,000 units sold over 4 years less safe than car Y with 0 deaths in 10,000 cars sold over 1 year? 04:19, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
Two things: 1. Sorry, I missed a zero in my previous post, it should be 500,000+. I've edited that, sorry if that caused some confusion. 2. I didn't just look at the number of deaths, the XC60 also performed extremely well in the Euro NCAP crash tests, I did take that into account. And by the way, I was not "bragging" about "death proof cars" (which part of my previous comment sounded even remotely close to bragging?). Herobrine (talk) 04:42, 9 May 2018 (UTC)

I altered the final paragraph, deleting some of the stuff about pollution so as to more directly address the comic itself--I don't think Randall meant to imply too much about pollution in this particular comic. It seems to be more about the immediate physical danger entailed by the widespread practice of fragile humans driving around at high speeds in large chunks of metal, with less-than-exhaustive training in safely doing so. Berets (talk) 01:21, 25 May 2018 (UTC)