View Full Version : Cell Phone Driver plows into and kills three in a restored Duesenberg

08-06-05, 06:58 AM
A friend told me about this at lunch today. More evidence why we need to shut up and drive, and coming right on the heels of the recent study that said we are four times more likely to crash while talking on the phone.


(more info also here:

pics and video here:


By OLIVIA MUNOZ, Associated Press Writer
Tue Aug 2, 3:52 PM ET

DETROIT - At a time when thousands of Americans were standing in bread lines, the luxury automobile of the day, the Duesenberg, sold for more than $15,000. The car — miles ahead of the typical $500 family car of the day — weighed more than three tons and was bigger than a modern Suburban.

But like many pre-World War II cars, Duesenbergs were made without one of the basic safety features mandatory on modern cars: seat belts.

And that might have contributed to the deaths over the weekend of a mother, father and their 8-year-old son. Police say a 2001 Volvo ran a stop sign near Ann Arbor and struck their newly restored 1929 Duesenberg while they were out for a drive near their home.

The family of five was thrown from the car, and the two other children were injured. The driver of the Volvo was not injured and could face charges.

The Duesenberg, like many vintage cars, is nearly impossible to bring up to current crash safety standards. And many classic-car owners believe that trying to do so would spoil a vehicle's authenticity.

Federal law holds cars only to the standards that were in effect at the time of the vehicle's manufacture. But many states have come up with their own regulations for classic cars, and often prohibit their use for routine transportation.

"When you're driving to a show, the guy in the modern car thinks you can start, stop and maneuver just the same as he can. But if you have an open car and it flips over, you're in big trouble," said Chuck Conrad, president of the Des Plaines, Ill.-based Classic Car Club of America.

Crashes — especially fatal ones — involving classic cars are rare because the owners are so cautious with them, said Matt Short, executive vice president of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Ind.

Owners do most of their driving to and from classic-car shows, conventions and parades. The typical mileage for collector cars is usually less than 1,000 a year, according to McKeel Hagerty, chief executive of Hagerty Collector Car & Boat Insurance in Traverse City. His company is one of the biggest classic-car insurers in the country, with 300,000 clients.

Hagerty said he cannot remember a fatal crash in a vintage car in the 22 years he has been in business. Only 0.2 percent of his customers in any given year file claims over collisions with other cars, he said.

Seat belts were introduced on cars in the early 1960s. In 1968, the federal government made them mandatory. But there is no federal requirement to add them to cars that did not come with them.

And with vehicles built before the 1930s, "you just can't retrofit many of these cars. They will never meet any modern crash test criteria for safety," said Eron Shosteck, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

After all, Conrad said, "Bolting yourself down to a 70-year-old piece of wood isn't really going to stop anything."

Most states, including Michigan, New York and California, let classic car owners register their vehicles with a "vintage" license, but with restrictions.

In Virginia, a classic-car owner can obtain a standard registration that allows the vehicle to be used like any other model as long as it meets current safety standards for such things as brakes, headlights, turn signals, tires and seat belts. Or, the owner can obtain a vintage license that limits its use to car club events, parades and exhibits as well as occasional pleasure driving no more than 250 miles from home.

In New York, cars registered as historic vehicles are prohibited from day-to-day use, such as commuting to work. In Maryland, registrants must attest that they will not transport people in the cars on highways. And in Alabama, classic car owners can be fined and stripped of their vintage-vehicle registrations for driving their classic cars other than for a show

08-06-05, 07:50 AM
That's sad. Also not a good idea to have children in such a car on the public roads. I didn't see the part about the cell phone.

08-06-05, 11:24 PM
As a classic car owner, I feel for this family. I mean, The parents arent alive to debate it now. But the fact is that the guy spent a fortune to restore this old car, and decided to take his family on a cruise in it. You can be careful all day long, but it doesnt make others more careful. My 62 ford wagon didnt come with belts at all, and was a total non-option car. A previous owner had three point belts installed for the front occupants, even though the car had 19,000 original miles when he did so in 1999. But that doesnt help in the back seat, where only lap belts were installed. What is a person to do? I want to take my kids on cruises in daddy's wagon, go to car shows etc. but how on earth could I retrofit shoulderbelts into the BACK seat of a 43 year old car? My other two vintage cars (66 ford coupe, 66 mercury wagon) also only have lap belts throughout. The merc is factory, the ford are laps I installed myself.

A horrible situation that was unavoidable by the owner in my book. The car was an open roof car. Even with belts, theyd have all crushed their heads on the pavement when it rolled. It simply isnt deisnged to save lives.

In this case, those who died were the lucky ones. I feel for the surviving children who have no parents and a lost sibling. Thank god they have eachother.

Dirty Sanchez
08-07-05, 09:57 AM
I also own a classic (60 Impala). It also does not have seat belts. I've long had the feeling that I would die behind the wheel of it. Reading this does not make me feel any better :shakehead

08-07-05, 12:24 PM
What is a person to do?

I guess someone has to decide what the risks are and whether they are willing to take them (for themselves and/or their children). I'm sure a lot of people drive their classic cars, which are unsafe by today's standards, without incident. Just like so many people fly everyday without incident.

08-07-05, 12:28 PM
think it came out to 1.46 deaths per 100,000,000 miles driven last year according to that yearly death rate report from a couple of weeks back.

08-07-05, 09:19 PM
I drove a 56 Ford Fairlane in 89-90 and if I remember right, no belts. :(


08-08-05, 02:19 AM
That stinks, yapping on the phone is dangerous enough, but let's face it, people use common sense like it cost them a million bucks (not at all).

I saw a first on my way into work today right in front of me coming through Bartlett going about 30, a guy on a motorcycle....on his cell phone...he even dialed it as he was driving :rolleyes: please don't expect me to stop if you are that stupid and wreck.

08-09-05, 02:10 AM
I also own a classic (60 Impala). I've long had the feeling that I would die behind the wheel of it.

Like Bon Scott? :D

08-10-05, 07:59 PM
Well, this is a very tragic story no doubt. Does that mean that everybody with a classic car should be made to get seat belts? I dont want any. It was an accident, and they happen. I dont see any cell phone reference, but did not read everything on that page.

Duesenburg's are worth a fortune, it's ironic that it's legacy will have such a terrible blackmark. It's really weird

PS - I have a 1970 Plymouth, and the seatbelts in that thing are down right scary. Seatbelts may have been mandatory, but I dont think a lot of coin was spent on research.

This thread sort of reminds me of the college mascot thread. One group telling another what to do.

You cant change fate, but you can pass laws against using cell phones in moving cars (one of my pet peeves)