Auto Safety and the Laws of Unintended Consequences, Pt 1


Unintended consequences always arise from every mandate or law that was instituted in the name of safety – especially if that mandate is a one-size-fits-all answer to a question that nobody asked. The implementation of a generic safety mandate, especially in cars and trucks, fails to factor-in the modifications needed for some of the uses that specific vehicles are needed for – especially emergency vehicles, such as police cars.

When air bags were first mandated in 1990, there were two major flaws that put into question their value as safety features. The first part of this mandate required driver and passenger air bags; cars without passenger-side air bags needed front door-mounted seat belts instead. Unfortunately, if one or both doors were forced open in a collision, those door-mounted seat belts were unable to keep a seat belt wearer from being ejected from their vehicle. Second, all early air bags inflated with the same force. The possibility of an air bag doing what it was designed to do posed serious, life-threatening dangers to children, small adults, and pregnant women.

In the 1970s and 1980s, former WLS AM disc jockey Larry Lujack had a segment on his radio show called “Animal Stories” – some of these bits are available on CD. On Animal Stories, Volume I, a track called “Pig Survivor” describes air bag tests that were conducted by General Motors and Volvo which used live pigs to simulate children and small adults. These tests were a preview of the dangers that would surface in post-air bag-mandated cars.

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