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Sunday, January 25, 2004

On Safety

Senator Mike Dewine of Ohio, a Republican, is the latest politician to advocate safety requirements for the automakers, see here. I'm always skeptical about political meddling with cars, due in large part to the added requirements that have made cars more similar to each other than ever, and have kept many manufacturers out of the US, due to the high costs of making compliant vehicles. But on the other hand, the results speak for themselves with continued declines in crashes nationwide. Anyone who has had a loved one die of a car crash (not that I have), knows as well that the safety concerns of vehicles, while making the advocate sound annoying, are of the utmost importance.

But I'd like to draw attention to one proposal in particular in that article. It is the proposal to have tire expiration dates. I think the proposal is brilliant. If the government can make then appear on the car, perhaps on the whitewalls and then have a nationwide campaign to get people to notice them, people will replace their tires more often, and not drive on bald, decaying tires which can result in injury. Finally, making some kind of safety report on the vehicle, perhaps near other labels where the door closes, is quite important as well. But the safety requirements should MAKE SENSE. They should rank the car in such a way as to show if the vehicle is truly safe, not just good at passing tests. Crash tests, especially the government's don't necessarily mimic real life crash situations. Car companies will gleefully put added protective material at the crash points the government tests for, not where it is really needed for general safety. The labels must express that the car is truly a safe one, and not one "safe" to just the government. And finally, the car shouldn't be unfairly maligned, the label should merely rate the car, not have excessive verbiage. People's jobs for both domestic and foreign manufacturers depend on their car selling; it won't sell if the car is seen as a death trap.

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