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Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook on Petition to Upgrade Air Bag Tests

April 20, 1998

Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook on Petition to Upgrade Air Bag Tests

The families here today know only too well what happens when the auto industry finds a short cut through safety standards. There must be no delay or compromise on the final issuance and implementation of the upgraded air bag tests for the industry to exploit, or loopholes through which it can evade its responsibility.

Today these families are urging their Senators and Representatives in Congress to stand up to the auto industry and to force it to make safer air bags. Pending legislation, if enacted, would go a long way toward stopping people being killed or seriously injured by poorly designed air bags.

The Senate ISTEA bill S.1173, passed in March, would require NHTSA to propose an upgraded standard by June 1, 1998 and a final rule on June 1, 1999. The legislation is now in the House-Senate conference committee and it is vital that these deadlines be locked into the final version of the bill to prevent the industry from weasling out of its duty to produce safe vehicles.

We have heard too many excuses from too many companies about why they have not designed safer air bags. In recent weeks the auto industry has been pounding the halls, lobbying the Congress and the Department of Transportation to go slow and not require any firm deadlines for setting a proper air bag safety standard.

In 1996, the National Transportation Safety Board issued an urgent recommendation that NHTSA “immediately revise” the air bag performance standard. NHTSA?s announced it would propose an upgrade in “early 1997”. To date, no such rule has been issued.

What are we waiting for? The suppliers are ready to sell better systems to the manufacturers. The public is crying out for better air bag designs. Why are some auto companies stalling? The American people, and these families in particular, deserve an answer.