Opinion: Why I Like the Cash For Clunkers Plan

As I’m driving to work on Interstate 95 this morning, I see a car in the next lane over that surprises me a little bit. It has obviously been rear-ended in an accident and it must have hit the car in front of it because the front end is smashed-in too.

The back end is all damaged and the back tail light looks like it’s going to fly off the car at any second and become a projectile to hit any car driving behind it. This car is definitely ready for the graveyard and yet it’s flying down the highway at 70 miles an hour.

wrecked Toyota Corolla picture

This Toyota Corolla is similar to the car I saw this morning while driving to work. I was just waiting for a broken part to fly off it on the interstate.

In South Florida, cars like this hit the road all the time. Florida has no yearly vehicle inspections. The state stopped doing them in the late 90’s.

I can’t even count how many complete junkers I see on the roads here that make me think to myself, “That car even runs?” It can’t even go faster than 45 on a 65mph freeway. Isn’t that a hazard to the drivers who are doing 65 and those crazy speedsters who fly down I95 and weave in and out of traffic doing at least 80? I see those cars that should be at a scrap yard and say to myself, “they are going to cause an accident.”

Many times I’ve had to slam on my brakes to avoid a piece of crap car that looks like it’s about to fall apart. Most times, it’s at night when I’m driving home from the gym, it’s dark outside and since the crappy car’s lights don’t work, I can’t even see it.

I understand that a lot of people are forced to keep their junkers for financial reasons. They have to drive them to work because they have no other choice. A lot of consumers simply cannot afford to buy a new car right now. Maybe they don’t work or live close to the train line or bus line. Although South Florida has a great public transportation system, sometimes it’s not an option for everyone.

And when the junkers need fixed or need new tires or brake pads, many people can’t afford to replace those parts. Times are tough. Money is tight. It’s hard to come up with several hundred dollars to fix your car.

car junk yard picture

This auto junk yard makes me feel a little better knowing there are fewer "death traps on wheels" roaming the streets.

While the government supporters of the cash for clunkers program are focusing so intently on promoting the incentive, I think they are leaving a key component out of their argument. Yes, it would be good for the environment to get old cars off the road so people can drive more environmentally-friendly cars that pollute less. But the supporters of the legislation never mention how some of the old, clunky cars are a safety hazard to everyone near them on the road.

When it starts pouring rain here and I’m on Interstate 95 in a torrential downpour, I start to have a small panic attack. I’m just waiting for someone with bald tires to crash into me. I grip the wheel so tight, just bracing myself for impact. Paranoid? Maybe. Realistic? Definitely.

The cash for clunkers incentive is a good thing. Maybe drivers should realize it’s time to send their hazard-on-wheels to the junkyard already. If the legislation is passed, the government should give buyers enough of a financial incentive to retire their old cars so they can buy new ones. The current incentive doesn’t seem big enough to sway consumers to trade in their clunkers. Hopefully it works because I know I’ll feel a lot better when I start seeing fewer junkers on the roads.


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