Air Bags in Cars the


Instead, they want to see someone who will make a decision and stick with it. If the President believes air bags should stay in cars, he must not apologize for that.

Interest Groups

Those individuals who believe in Ralph Nader want to see him in politics. At least they did in 1996. In 1996, Nader pointed out that he had been arguing for air bags in cars for 30 years. He also pointed out that no one seemed to be interested in listening to what he had to say, but in the end he was right. Whether he was right about air bags is a matter of political opinion, but those who supported him in 1996 certainly believed that he was onto something -- and not just with the air bags, but with politics in general (McCarthy, 1996).

Nader's chief complaint with Republicans and Democrats was that they don't seem to actually do anything other than spend a lot of money for television commercials that argue back and forth on issues. He used the air bag as an example of how politicians latch onto something and want individuals to see how important and aware they are, but yet do not want to take responsibility if the new idea or product does not do as well as previously hoped. His argument was that, even though he argued for air bags for years and no one listened, now that the air bags were a reality people were trying to blame him and his ideas (McCarthy, 1996).

Special interest groups of all kinds often get the blame when something goes wrong with a particular issue or idea. They get accused of forcing Congress into making a law, and often they are even accused of bribery and all sorts of other unpleasant things. While it would seem likely that there is corruption even in the best-run political system, it is unlikely that special interest groups spend most of their time bribing politicians.


The scientific and technical communities take a lot of blame when a new idea doesn't do well. Air bags were designed by scientists, and therefore Congress and others were quick to blame the scientists when people began to be killed in accidents. Many of these accidents were low-speed collisions that the person would have survived if it wasn't for the air bag. The scientific community argued that air bags were safe, but the general public began to complain and say that the force at which the air bag deployed was causing many injuries. Air bags did save some lives, but not in low-speed accidents.

In response, the scientists designed air bags that deployed more gently, but these didn't find favor either. This was largely because they couldn't pass industry crash tests, and therefore could not be used in cars. They were pointless. It was also important for the scientists to do the best they could for their country, and to try not to anger Congress or the President too much. This was part of the political dance they must go along with if they want money to fund other research and development projects that they might be working on, or plan to work on in the future.

Even though it might seem like science and politics are totally separate fields, they are tied together in many ways, for many different purposes. Because of this, the scientific community took the heat they received from Congress over the air bags without a lot of complaint, knowing that complaining could harm future money and projects, and knowing that a little bit of trouble now was worth the possibility of a lot of achievement and gratitude later. Air bags have managed to be a bit safer over the years, but there are still dangers that exist with them, especially in the cases of children and small adults, although they are less than previously thought (Study, 1998).

General Public

As for the general public, they are still divided on the air bag issue. Many people think that air bags are dangerous for children and small adults, but others state that the air bag is what saved their life even though they were small in stature (Leavitt, 1996). This is important for politicians who still support air bags in cars. Those voters who realize the merits of the air bag will be less likely to vote against a politician who supports the continuation of air bag usage, and will be more likely to support continuing research into ways to make air bags safer for children and petite adults.

Those who believe in the danger of air bags worked to convince automakers that they needed to create an air bag that deployed with less force then the original air bags did. The automakers did create air bags that deployed with less force, but many of them could not pass crash tests that were necessary to receive government safety ratings (Strong, 1999).

Because of this, it appears that the general public will have to decide who to vote for. They can vote for the politician who is against air bags, or they can vote for the politician who is in favor of the traditional air bags. Apparently, they will not be able to vote for someone who favors the air bags that deployed with less force, because they will not be judged safe enough to be used in passenger vehicles.

Most of the public, is seems, has concerns that far outweigh a worry over an airbag, but for those segments of the population that are vastly concerned with the safety of air bags, the battle for caring continues. The public wants someone who cares about what they care about, and they will often not vote for someone who doesn't care, or who seems insincere.


Air bags, or any public safety issue, become a political issue very rapidly. From the public who wants safety to the special interest groups who demand specific measures to the scientists who create them to the Congress who passes the law to the President who signs it, public issues like this one are always political. It comes down to whether supporting a particular issue will win voter approval, or whether the public is angered by a President or other politician who tried to support a particular issue in the past.

Public safety is certainly important, and it is not that all politicians are callous, unconcerned, or otherwise uninterested in what the public actually wants. It is true, however, that much of politics is a carefully played game that revolves around money (as in the scientists) and power (as in votes for the President or other elected officials). Those people wanting to keep their money and power must know how to play the game.

They must balance their concern for others with their concern for themselves and the position of power, respect, and trust that they hold. When they are able to balance those two things, they will likely be considered good at what they do, because they will appear to be concerned about all of the little things that concern the everyday people, which will in turn earn them votes and public confidence. Hopefully, they will then truly concern themselves with important issues, like air bags, and see that the best solution is found. With air bags, the best solution may still be out there somewhere, as air bags are still required, and some people still die from them. It is true that they save some lives, but losing even one life is one too many.

Works Cited

Carter, Craig C. "Politics & Policy: Air Bags Puff On. Carmakers are installing them as federal rules requiring passive restraints look certain." Fortune 9 December 1985: 135.

Healey, James R & Jayne O'Donnell. "Air bag fatalities shock backers into soul-searching." USA Today 8 July 1996: 02B.

Lambrecht, Bill. "Who is He? Ashcroft gets hard questions, some jokes about obscurity on New Hampshire swing." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12 August 1997: 01A.

Leavitt, Paul. "Air bags save lives." USA Today 5 November 1996: 14A.

McCarthy, Colman. "Grubby politics fail to taint Nader's vision." Minneapolis Star Tribune 7 October 1996: 13A.

Quindlen, Anna. "Nader and the Push For Purity." Newsweek 28 August…