Car owners have been customizing their vehicles since the first automobiles rolled off the factory floor and onto American roads.
Today, a car modification is more likely to be associated with street racing, turbo engines, and flashy looks. But for many car buffs, modification is a lifelong passion that they spend significant time and money on. It allows them to express individuality and preserve history as well as upgrading performance. But are there certain kinds of modifications that might indicate that the driver is more likely to drive recklessly?
Types of Car Modifications
There are three basic categories of modifications: performance modifications, functional modifications, and cosmetic/aesthetic modifications. Cosmetic modifications include a new coat of paint or a decorative spoiler. Functional modifications include a navigation/radio system with the touch screen, a new air conditioner, or a sunroof. Performance modifications can mean getting new brakes or tires or updating your car’s fuel efficiency. It is this category where most modifiers get into trouble. By doing things like adding a nitrous booster or removing emissions parts to boost horsepower, they may violate the law.
Common Unsafe or Illegal Car Modifications
Every state has its own laws and regulations about what car modifications it allows and to what extent. Some of these restrictions—like bans on dark window tinting, radar detectors, and underbody neon lights—may seem silly. However, the vast majority of them are meant to keep drivers and passengers safe on roads and highways. There are several popular modifications that can create a safety hazard.
Jacked-Up Bro Trucks
Trucks are designed to sit higher than your average passenger car. Some owners like to install lift kits and huge tires, turning a common work vehicle into monster truck rally time. This shifts the truck’s center of gravity higher than it should be. This makes the vehicle harder to handle, and more likely to flip or cause accidents.
Sadly, this well-recognized car customization gets a bad rap due to perceived gang affiliations. But a lowrider by itself can indeed be an unsafe drive. Some are so low that a little bump can cause them to scrape the road. This means that they can’t travel at normal rates of speed. Most enthusiasts will now install hydraulics to avoid this.
Head and Tail Light Modifications
Some of the cooler looking modifiers that became big two decades ago were aftermarket head and tail lights. Most turned out to be poor quality, which meant that many of them leaked or fogged easily. Lights that aren’t bright can’t serve their safety purpose.
Removing Emissions Equipment
A hack more common for the classic car buffs, removing emissions gear from certain cars (especially muscle cars) gave the vehicle a bump in horsepower. Modern fuel injection and efficient engines make this hack totally unnecessary now.
A certain film series introduced the public to the concept of nitrous injection kits. The reason for its illegality is the danger first responders would face after an accident. A nitrous bottle used for a vehicle is under intense pressure and, in a worst-case scenario, can explode. Hard to miss the safety issue there.
Vehicle Modifications and Reckless Driving
Most aftermarket car modifications will not have any real impact on how a particular person approaches driving. Just because someone installs a Bluetooth radio or replaces their brakes, doesn’t mean that they want to find the nearest street race. But the facts do suggest a connection between certain modifications and driver safety. According to a survey of car insurance companies, drivers of cars fitted with aftermarket parts are 27% more likely to be in an accident.
Another concern when it comes to reckless driving has more to do with the law and police enforcement than the driver’s actions. Certain modifiers like loud exhaust and sound systems draw attention, and some places may have broadly written reckless driving statutes to give cops wide latitude on determining what is reckless. The purpose of sound restrictions is to make sure others on the road can hear emergency vehicle sirens. Certain localities enforce them more strictly than others. For more information on the legal ramifications of modifications and reckless driving, view site here.
Modifiers and your Car Insurance Policy
When you purchase auto insurance, you pay for coverage to your vehicle as it is. Insurance companies set their own coverage rules for future modifications. If you modify your car and don’t inform them, they may refuse coverage or reimbursement after you get into an accident. Asking your insurer before making major alterations can help you avoid a financial headache.
So are car owners that modify their vehicles reckless drivers by nature? The true answer is nuanced. Some modifications are safety hazards and increase the likelihood of an accident or reckless driving charge from law enforcement. Customizing your ride is your right, but make sure you do it safely and check the laws where you live before going under the hood.