Man, I take issue with about 90% of what you say. Yes, there are people who are all rules, but I haven't found them more likely to be in an accident, mostly because they spend so much time worrying about the rules they hardly ever fly. What I did find was that people who didn't take flying seriously were the ones more likely to have problems, regardless of their attitude towards being a stickler for the rules. Now, I knew quite a few of the "old fart" pilots, they were great pilots. They also knew their limits, they knew the rules, and they didn't do stupid things. They weren't good because they ignored the rules, they were able to get away with ignoring SOME of the rules because they understood exactly what the rules were for and when you could bend them. You fly a haphazard traffic pattern with them, though, you'd get your ear chewed off.
My experience with FAA regulations is that most of them are more about common sense than blind obedience to stupid rules. If you read between the lines, most of them say "you can kill yourself, just don't kill anyone else, please." Many of the rest are about protocols, how you and other pilots can co-exist in the same airspace. That's as of 9/11, I pretty much stopped around then when stupid security regulations started coming out, so maybe things have changed.
The most dangerous people are yahoos who think the rules are dumb, they're better than the average pilot, they can get away with it, so why should they bother. People who say "flying is easy, any monkey can do it" tend to be like that. Yeah, the mechanics of flying are pretty straightforward, and most people can learn to do it, however I found that people who took longer to learn tended to be the ones that had the highest flying skills eventually.
If your instructor wasn't constantly testing your situational awareness, asking you what you'd do if something unexpected happened, either you had a poor instructor or you weren't paying attention. That's at least half of what your training is about.
If your plan of action if your elevator gets stuck is to ask your front seat passenger to climb into the back seat - well, I don't think you've really thought it through very well. You're either going to be in an uncontrollable spin well before he gets his seat belt unbuckled or the airplane is controllable and the last thing you want to do is push your CG backwards with limited elevator control. Fail.