The disconnect

By Eric Peters

If the government is so very concerned about Our Safety, why is it forcing millions of people to drive around in cars with double-dangerous Takata airbags in them?

But there is a recall!

Yes, absolutely.

Which will take years to run its course due to the enormous number of cars involved. Dealers – who are handling the work as part of the recall process – are overwhelmed. And there aren’t enough replacement, somewhat less-dangerous air bags available to replace the double-dangerous “defective” ones.

So owners of the Takata-equipped bags wait.

And, drive.

Which means each time they do, they are gambling the double-dangerous Takatas won’t detonate and spray their faces with high-speed shrapnel. The government leaves them with no other option – other than to not drive the car, of course. Which isn’t much of an option if you bought the car for purposes of driving it and need to be able to drive it in order to earn the money necessary to pay for it, as well as other such mundane things like food and rent.

There is of course a third option: Turn the bags off until they can be replaced. In most cars, this is a simple matter of pulling a fuse or disconnecting a circuit. At most, installing a simple Off switch. It does not require back-ordered or unavailable parts – and can be done easily, in a fraction of the time it takes to remove/disassemble a car’s steering column and dashboard – necessary in order to remove/replace the air bags.

This would give people breathing space; it would eliminate any danger of further harm caused by the Takata bags and so give people some peace. They would know the car is once again safe to drive.

But the government won’t allow it.

Why?

And why aren’t “consumer safety advocates,” as they style themselves, howling with outrage?

It is a very interesting thing.

If you drive unbuckled, you are likely to get a ticket – based on the assertion that it is not safe to drive a car without buckling up. So how is it that’s it’s “safe” to drive a car with a defective airbag – two defective air bags, typically – that could explode in your face and cut it to pieces with razor sharp pieces of metal?

Isn’t that the functional equivalent of rescinding seatbelt laws and knowingly permitting people to place themselves in harm’s way?

Ah, but there is a critical difference between an individual choosing to place himself in harm’s way and the government giving him no choice in the matter. It is not about “safety,” you see.

It is about power – manifested as control.

The person who chooses to not buckle up has asserted control over himself. This cannot be endured by the controllers in government. Whether it is truly “safe” to wear a seatbelt is purely incidental and secondary to being made to do as you are told – and punished if you do otherwise.

If this were not so – if the controllers in the government were truly concerned about Our Safety as opposed to controlling us –  there would be consistency. All known dangers to Our Safety would be treated with equal gravity; greater gravity, according to the objective threat posed.

And these Takata bags are without question the single greatest automotive safety threat in modern history; far worse than the most theoretical danger of fire-prone Pintos and the phantom danger of Audis that didn’t suddenly accelerate on their own (this was a made-up thing which almost put Audi out of business back in the ‘80s).

And vastly more so than seatbelt scofflaws.

Yet not only is there no immediate call to disable these double-dangerous, known-to-be-defective bags via the simple expedient of pulling a fuse or installing an Off switch, it remains illegal to do so. Any dealer who does so faces criminal prosecution for – cue the Irony Organ – defeating a government-mandated “safety” device. This is a High Crime in our time and no dealer will touch the job with a ten-foot screwdriver.

The individual owner could pull the appropriate fuse and not risk prosecution. However, disabling the bag – unless you are clever with electronics – will trigger the SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) warning light in the dashboard and this will cause you to fail – More Irony! – the government-mandated safety inspection needed in most states to get or renew your vehicle registration.

If you fail the “safety” inspection, effectively, you can no longer drive the car. Well, you could – but you do so at the risk of being coralled by a cop who notices the tags are expired. In most states, that can trigger more than just a ticket. If the cop is a vengeful sort, he can order your car towed to the impound lot.

To sum up: If you leave the defective bags powered on, the car is manifestly not safe to drive – but it passes the “safety” inspection, you get your government sticker and are now allowed to drive it.

All risk assumed by you, of course.

If there is any upside to this ugly airbag business, it is that it makes plain to anyone with their eyes open that the government doesn’t give a damn about Our Safety. If it did give a damn, it would never have imposed the air bag mandate to begin with. As I wrote about in a prior column, the government controllers responsible for imposing the air bag mandate – Joan Claybrook and Elizabeth Dole – two non-engineer lawyer/bureaucrats – were told by engineers of the dangers posed by air bags. That while they would save lives in some cases, they would also surely also take them in others.

This fact is not in dispute.

Nor that air bags were mandated anyway.

Because it was about power – and control – with Our Safety merely the window dressing used to give it the necessary pretext.

This may not have been obvious and some may question the assertion. But what can such gullible souls say when confronted with the fact that the government is literally requiring people – millions of people – to drive around in cars equipped with known defective air bags?

Res ipsa loquitur. 

Or at least, it ought to.

 

Eric Peters is the automotive columnist for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Visit his website for all things automotive at ericpetersautos.com.

 

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