Limited Taxation & Government
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CLT&G Update
Saturday, November 14, 1998

Remember when, once upon a time, we thought we were free and believed that government was answerable to We the People -- a time when we were more than just the funding mechanism upon which it fed? It really wasn't all that very long ago ...

I recall sitting at the witness table before a U.S. Senate committee in Washington, DC, naively arguing against a federal mandatory seat belt law and thinking we had a chance. It was 1989 and the justification then too for peeling off "just a little bit" of our freedom was to lighten "the financial burden on society."

First came our freedom, the unalienable rights with which we are all born, I reminded the senators. With this freedom we formed a government, primarily to safeguard our liberty. This government has grown and expanded over the years, assumed new powers, created new programs -- programs it now contends are becoming too expensive to support.

The solution might be to re-evaluate the expansive programs and their costs, I pointed out to the senators, but it certainly is not to erode the very liberty for which we formed a government to protect in the first instance.

It was a losing position then and apparently it still is. Freedom has a price. What remains of it is still relatively cheap. But too many prefer being taken care of and are willing to pay the price. And so we are steadily losing it and the inertia is building.

Chip Ford --

November/December 1998

NHTSA Denies All NMA Suggestions on Air Bag Rules

NMA's comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), claiming that the agency's rule ignored the safety of many individuals, were denied. In fact, almost all comments on the final rule were denied by NHTSA.

NHTSA appears to be using the threat of an air bag killing a child, as an incentive for adults to place kids in the back seat. While NMA agrees that kids are safest in the back seat (in most types of vehicles), we believe it is utterly irresponsible for the federal government to justify the mandate for these potentially lethal devices in this manner.

In its response, NHTSA insists that it knows best about who should and shouldn't be allowed to have on/off switches installed. The official response says "NHTSA fully considered allowing persons to deactivate their air bags without having to show or claim actual risk. The agency decided that public safety interests dictate that individuals who do not fall within one of the specified risk groups should not be allowed to have an on-off switch installed. NHTSA does not believe that an individual's belief that he or she has the right to choose whether to have an air bag outweighs society's interest in avoiding death and serious injury and the enormous public expense associated with unnecessary injury."

While we have long used the analogy that the American public would not accept a federally mandated vaccine that kills a child or small adult for every 20 or 30 lives saved, NHTSA puts a different spin on the ratio of lives saved versus lost by air bags. NHTSA says, "The most recent data (June 1, 1998) indicate that while 105 persons have been killed by air bags, 3,148 persons have been saved. Therefore, a person is 31 times more likely to be saved by an air bag than killed by an air bag."

It's almost as if NHTSA believes death by air bag is just punishment for a child whose parents didn't buckle them up properly. "The vast majority of 105 air bag deaths could have been prevented through simple behavior modification, namely wearing a safety belt and moving the children to the back seat."

NHTSA simply doesn't believe motorists have the right to use their own judgement, so it has eliminated any chance for citizens to make their own decisions regarding air bags. For example, the agency claims, "... any deactivation , or switching off, of an air bag by of for an individual who does not fall within the specified risk groups constitutes misuse. That individual is safer with an air bag than without one. Accordingly, allowing all members of the general public to have on-off switches installed, regardless of risk, can only increase the potential for misuse."


In one of the first lawsuits to come to fruition, Chrysler Corp. agreed to an unknown but estimated multi-million-dollar out-of-court settlement over the air bag death of a Tennessee child. The settlement forestalled what would have been the first trial of a lawsuit over hazards posed by air bags to children. The parents sought $10 million in compensatory damages from the manufacturer of their Dodge Caravan. The minivan was struck by another vehicle and knocked into a ditch. The passenger-side bag deployed, striking the child in the face. She died at a hospital 18 hours later. NMA will continue to push for a change in federal law that would make air bags optional equipment. Unfortunately, more children and small adults will likely die from the mandated devices before that happens.

The National Motorists Association website can be found at: The Massachusetts state coordinator, Ivan Sever of Needham, can be contacted at or by calling (781) 449-7231

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