- - Tuesday, September 23, 2014


The bureaucrats at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have obviously seen too many gangster movies. Parents everywhere can sleep soundly now that the Obama administration has protected their children from the menace of the trunks in supercars. The safety nerds last week recalled the Ferrari 458 Italia, which sells for a quarter of a million dollars and can reach 202 miles an hour on a straightaway, so it can be fitted with a functioning release in the tiny front trunk, lest a tiny child become trapped there.

Federal regulations require every car sold in the United States have a conspicuously marked, glow-in-the-dark release latch on the inside of the trunk. So far, so good, but the rule applies to every car, no matter how tiny its trunk. Since Hollywood loves nothing more than to put the hero in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car just before the big chase scene, the bureaucrats regard this as a crisis for all.

The Clinton administration first set out to foil “a criminal [who] forces a person into the trunk” by mandating a lever to enable a child, or more likely an actor, to escape. This presumes the gangster wouldn’t disable it before he stuffs his prey in the trunk.

While it’s theoretically possible to fit a person in the Ferrari’s tiny front luggage compartment, this bright red car that turns heads and attracts the attention of everyone isn’t likely to be a kidnapper’s first choice of getaway vehicle.

Ferrari must now pay to have 3,416 cars brought into the garage so that a latch most owners probably never knew they had can be replaced. This is not even the silliest recall ordered by this administration. Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recalled the Lotus Evora, a two-seater sports car from a small British manufacturer, over a “defective” sticker.

A label on the door jamb tells the date the Lotus emerged from the factory, but this differed from the date of U.S. certification. The company was required to ship one car that had been sold in America back to England, though there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Another two dozen cars that were imported but not yet sold received new labels, lest the incorrect label cause injury. As the bureaucrats put it: “An incorrect certification label may prevent the owner from determining recall applicability, potentially increasing the risk of a crash or injury.”

Transportation officials once followed a little common sense. The Reagan administration recognized that the enormous cost of certifying a car for sale in the United States was a burden for an automaker like Lotus, which sells only a few hundred cars a year. As a sign of good faith to a reliable ally, the British manufacturer won permission, renewed over three decades, to sell its cars here if they comply with the important and reasonable rules.

The Obama administration put a stop to that. After a successful lobbying campaign by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a left-wing group that pushes for installation of red-light revenue cameras, Lotus can’t sell any cars here next year because the exemptions have been revoked.

There are no known cases of a child being injured by incorrect labels, trunks or airbags in a superexpensive sports car, but that doesn’t deter the mindless busybodies. One-size-fits-all rules make bureaucrats feel safer. Their concern isn’t about the rest of us.

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