It has been a mistake for the White House to dilly-dally in adopting the new-airbag rules that are due by this Wednesday, March 1, but could have been in place months ago.
The automakers agreed without much fuss to a slew of new regulations governing advanced airbag design. Their only strenuous objection has been to a senseless test that requires an airbag to protect an unbelted mid-sized adult male dummy in a 30-mph crash into a rigid barrier.
Their objection: An airbag powerful enough to pass the test - and protect a man who isn't bright enough to wear his seat belt - puts children and smaller women at risk. That's exactly where things stood before the injuries and fatalities that prompted automakers and rule makers to seek advanced airbags.
Critics claim that if automakers and suppliers would only spend more they could find a way to pass the test and still not endanger smaller occupants. But the companies' willingness, even eagerness, to invest in, develop and install systems that protect women and children deflates that argument. They say that Joan Claybrook, who as head of NHTSA pushed for the original airbag standard that protected lackadaisical males at the expense of women and children, is fighting the wrong battle, perhaps as a knee-jerk reaction.
Claybrook and Public Citizen may mean well, but it is high time to stop forcing the automakers to use the 30-mph unbelted moron test.
This may be an election year, but it's time for the lame duck Clinton administration to stop playing politics with the lives of women and children.