Air Bag Rift

Florida newspaper recently published a story criticizing NHTSA for withholding information on injuries related to air bags and their deployment or lack thereof That persons involved in vehicle accidents are occasionally injured b)- air bags should be a surprise to no one, given the operating principle and materials employed. Exploding a plastic bag in someone's face is bound to cause an injury or two.

The story behind the story was NHTSA's attempt to bury the injury data, and newspaper reporters having to resort to the Freedom of Information Act to get what should have been readily available information.

The newspaper charged that documents it acquired under the Freedom of Information Act show that the federal safety agency has received 430 complaints that air bags either failed to open completely or that they only partially opened. These crashes resulted in eight fatalities and nearly 300 injuries. The Sun-Sentinel story also stated that NHTSA has 124 reports of various injuries including burns in minor accidents. In some of the reports. the bags were said to have deployed without any impact occurring.

Given the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of air bags in use, these aren't big numbers. However, NHTSA is apparently convinced that any criticism of their pet initiatives will result in a reduction of public and political support. The worst of all possible consequences NHTSA could envision would be legislation allowing consumers to choose the kinds of safety devices they want installed in their vehicles That's pretty radical!

Source: July/Augest 1992 NMA News

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