Speedometers — Read ‘em or weep


By Al Vinikour  

Generally the majority of my day is spoken for. Some days I have an auto event to attend; sometimes I’m out of town; and still days others find me at home writing while watching reruns of Law & Order (pick one…there’s three separate series).  Sometimes I have already seen the episode at least once and if Sponge Bob Square Pants is also a rerun I’ll mull over auto-related items that frost my behind (some would say it would take the entire South Pole to find that much ice) and give me fodder for these Diatribe columns.

As I was driving back from my doctor’s office today I noticed the high number of state police officers along I-75 in Detroit. Consequently I was paying close attention to my vehicle’s speedometer, and began to wonder…other than styling, why are there such discrepancies in the legibility of automobile speedometer dials? As revenue-hungry as communities have become, police are looking for any excuse to hand out speeding tickets, so most people try to stick to the posted speed.

However, some of the speedometers have such small indicators that it’s sometimes difficult to truly assess your real speed. Rest assured the digital radar the police officer is using has the real number.

Sometimes, small speed indicators have a powerful ally – fat pointers. As bad as it is trying to figure out if you’re on the sunny-side of the speed limit, a fat needle can sometimes block out as much as 7 mph. Were you to get a ticket for this I can guarantee you that everyone from a policeman to Judge Judy is not going to be sympathetic to your cause. And if you’re considering hiring some sleazy attorney like my Uncle Leo to sue the auto manufacturer for causing such a problem in the first case, forget it! 

There’s a very simple solution to this: every speedometer gauge on every vehicle sold should be digital!!!! This will give the driver instant feedback. No longer will he or she face the frightening prospect of converting the information illustrated on the speedometer into a real-time number. This literally could make the difference between buying your family some life-saving medicine…and paying for 100 cases of premium toilet paper for City Hall.

Don’t let those pesky manufacturers tell you the cost for such a process would be prohibitive and likely cause the layoffs of thousands of workers. Whatever the cost it can be buried into the MSRP, unlike the separately-listed cost of $760 for a hoity-toity paint color like, “GollyBobHowdy Gold Metallic Iridescent Silver-Tinted Flat-Panel Plum Silver.”

Easy to read digital speedometer on the Honda Civic

It can’t cost that much extra to wire up a speedometer for a digital display! Come on, Auto Manufacturer Person…please give us a break. There are benefits beyond cheating municipalities out of ill-gotten revenue.

Think of it this way: some day you too will have eyesight that wasn’t what it once was. Oh, sure, maybe today you can pick out the sex of a fly at 1,500 yards…but some day your vision could deteriorate to the point where you won’t be able to identify the sex of your own fly at two feet.

If auto manufacturers insist on keep all speedometers analog then hopefully they’ll take to heart my words of wisdom and put the speedometer needles on a diet…while putting more distance between numerical increments on the dial itself.

You’ll be doing a service for your customers at the least and at best you’ll be able to delay firing those workers you would have felt compelled to if you converted to digital read-outs.