Despite their spotty past, antilock brakes are being championed again, this time by the Bush administration through the Office of Management and Budget.
In February, the office blocked implementation of a new rule requiring tire pressure monitors in new cars and trucks. It did so in part because officials were concerned the rule might discourage installation of more antilock brakes.
The rule, written by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, favored direct systems, which entail monitors that use a pressure sensor in each wheel. The alternative would allow monitors that can be incorporated into antilock brakes, or indirect systems.
The Office of Management and Budget contended that indirect monitors and antilock brakes together would save more lives at a lower cost than direct monitors. It also said that allowing indirect monitors might help raise the antilock-brake installation rate, which it said has leveled off at about 68 percent of new vehicles.
The office cited the 4 percent to 9 percent lower fatality risk, lifting it from an Insurance Institute study.
But Farmer said the study's results were more complex. He also said there are no data to support the conclusion by the Office of Management and Budget that more lives would be saved with indirect tire monitors and antilock brakes than with direct tire monitors. Nevertheless, NHTSA is revising the tire-pressure monitoring rule.