It is somewhat amusing, in a grim sort of way, to hear that a court has cleared Porsche of any liability in the deaths of The Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker and driver Roger Rodas.

In 2013 Rodas lost control of the Porsche on a city street near Los Angeles, hitting a power pole and several trees. The car caught fire and the pair died at the scene.

Rodas' widow sued, claiming defects had caused the death of her husband.

The car should have had a roll cage. The fuel cells were faulty and the suspension was defective, she claimed.


This is what can happen when we get into a mentality of the "car" losing control, of giving the car some kind of anthropomorphic ability to exercise control over a situation. Car-makers do some pretty amazing things with cars in order to preserve the life within, but it is the driver who loses control, not the car.

There is also no point in arguing what a car could have done to prolong life.

If an airbag didn't go off, that's probably going to make things more injurious, but what has to be remembered is cars are designed to drive on roads at speed, and be completely responsive to a driver.

Cars are not designed to be driven into power poles and trees, and it is quite likely that a whole lot of things will go wrong when something that catastrophic happens - including the car catching on fire. Seriously, are you going to sue the car company for doing something a car is never designed to do?

Fortunately in New Zealand we don't seem to have a blame-the-car culture.

We can, in some situations, blame the road, in instances of petrol or diesel spills. But what police will always consider is: why did this crash happen, when hundreds of cars crossed the same spot without incident? Why did this person lose control, when everyone else today has driven straight?

The Herald ran a story of how relieved two parents were when a coroner ruled it could not be proven that texting had contributed to their daughter's car crash. Nonetheless, she did crash, and there will be a reason why she lost control after overcorrecting.

We make texting the ultimate crime, but inattention is the killer, and that's likely what happened.