Senator Maile Shimabukuro on Removing Airbag Requirement

Ben Gutierrez, “DOT considers removing airbag requirement in vehicle safety checks,” Hawaii News Now, 11 Aug.2017.

The state Department of Transportation is proposing eliminating the airbag requirement in motor vehicle inspections. It’s a move that has the support of some experienced auto mechanics, who say the airbags do more harm than good.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says frontal airbags have reduced driver fatalities by 29 percent. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says nearly 290 people were killed by airbags, most of them in vehicles manufactured before 1998.

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“If — and that’s a big word — if airbags were safe, why does it hurt and kill children?” asked longtime auto mechanic George Nitta. He’s convicted that airbags cause more injury in a crash.

“Have you seen someone who got slammed with an air bag? One of my customers did, and I looked at her and she looked like somebody slammed her in the face with a board,” said Nitta.

The state’ current administrative rules on motor vehicle safety inspections say that if a vehicle is equipped with frontal airbags, they must be fully functional.

“They want the right to be able to remove an airbag, if you have it in your car, because they feel — many people that it’s not safe,” said state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, who’s on the senate Transportation Committee. She’s heard from those auto mechanics. And she’s also concerned about the recalls of airbags manufactured by Takata, which has been sued because of exploding airbags.

“I think that’s kinda led to some of the concerns whether this should really be required or optional,” she said.

The state DOT said it’s now reviewing a proposed amendment to the rules that would no longer require airbags. After the review is completed, the change will be posted on its website and public hearings will be held.

We asked Nitta if no longer having that requirement would allow a car’s owner to disable its airbags.

“Right, right,” he replied. “I recommend it.”

State considers removing air bag requirement from vehicle safety checks

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Published: August 11, 2017, 4:50 pm  Updated: August 11, 2017, 6:59 pm (KHON2 News)

Air bags are designed to save your life, but should you be required to have them in your car?

KHON2 has learned that the Hawaii Department of Transportation is exploring the possibility of eliminating the air bag requirement from safety checks.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but the administration is currently reviewing an amendment to the Hawaii Administrative Rules.

Once the review is complete, the transportation department will conduct public hearings on the proposed changes.

You’ll have 30 days to let them know if you think it’s a good idea or not.

One Hawaii mechanic has already written to state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, D, Kalaeloa, Waianae, Makaha, saying he’s seen how dangerous airbags can be, and he doesn’t think drivers should be forced to have one if they don’t want to.

“He says there’s a requirement where he has to tell people that he must install air bags, and he’s really torn about it, because he’s seen incidents where he’s seen it’s been harmful, so he really feels he shouldn’t be forcing people to get the air bag, that it should be an option,” Shimabukuro said. “If the consumer wants one fine, but not to force them to have an air bag, so I believe that’s what DOT is now willing to consider.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, frontal air bags reduced driver fatalities by 29 percent, and fatalities of front-seat passengers by 30 percent.

However, air bags were also estimated to have caused more than 290 deaths between 1990 and 2008 in low-speed crashes.

Again, this is all still under review, and the public would be allowed to comment before any changes become permanent.