- The Washington Times - Friday, February 11, 2000

Sometimes, a problem is too "broke" to be fixed, as the saying goes. Air bags which have directly caused the deaths of at least 146 people 86 of them small children are just such a problem. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps trying to "fix" air bags instead of acknowledging that the devices are flawed technology and that perhaps a review of the federal requirement mandating their installation in all new cars and trucks is in order.
Earlier this week, NHTSA held a meeting in Washington attended by several parents of children who had been killed by air bag deployments. The parents were there to plead with NHTSA not to dilute the language used on the warning labels affixed to the sun visors of all new cars that make very clear the dangers posed by these "safety" devices. NHTSA is considering eliminating the word "warning" and the phrase "death can occur" to children riding in the front seat of an air bag-equipped vehicle.
Given the outrageous death toll so far, the warning labels certainly seem justified. People have every right to know exactly what the government is forcing them to buy and what risks it is compelling them to assume.
NHTSA is also considering a new regulation that would require so-called "smart" air bags that would supposedly lessen the chance of your wife, small child or elderly parent becoming the next air bag fatality. However, these new generation air bags might very well turn out to be as bad as the first air bags. Smart air bags use sensors to detect the presence of a child, an unbuckled passenger, or someone sitting too close to the air bag and turn themselves off or deploy with reduced force in the event of a crash. That sounds fine in theory, but over the 8-12 year lifespan of the average new car, who is to say all this elaborate technology might not deteriorate and fail? The fact is that NHTSA is on the verge of announcing a smart air bag requirement with virtually no real-world testing of the technology beforehand.
To understand just how alarming this business is, consider a recent photo that has surfaced and which can be viewed on the Internet at the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Web site (www.cei.org). The 1977 photo depicts "safety expert" Ralph Nader demonstrating how an air bag works using a 3-year-old unbuckled child. This is precisely the type of air bag deployment most likely to kill your young son or daughter. Yet Mr. Nader and his protege, then-NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook, both told the public when air bags were first introduced that the devices were the best way to restrain an unbuckled child in an accident.
So much for the "experts."
The fact is that no manufacturer defect has resulted in as much carnage as have air bag deployments. That is a sobering fact, when you think about it. Regardless of how many theoretical lives air bags may have saved, does anyone doubt that if air bags had been installed by the automakers as optional equipment, absent a government mandate, there would have been a massive recall and lawsuits that would have made the bankrupting of Dow Corning over silicone breast implants (which killed no one, incidentally) seem piddling by comparison?
It's appalling that NHTSA isn't willing to admit it made a mistake and instead continues to tilt at windmills in an effort to make a dangerous, complex technology "safe" with the car-buying public serving as the guinea pigs. That NHTSA is so willing to take risks with your life and the lives of your children is a commentary on the true agenda of this "safety" bureaucracy.

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