It seems some safety-conscious motorists are stuck between an explosion of air and a hard dashboard. They have to decide between a possibly dangerous air bag and an inadequate seat belt.
Drivers who decide to disconnect their vehicle's air bag because of concern over the device's potential dangers may be left with a seat belt that's not able to protect them effectively.The problem is auto makers changed the design of seat belts when they started installing air bags. The two are supposed to work together, so the seat belt is looser, allowing the occupant to move forward farther before it provides restraint.
If the air bag has been disconnected, the seat belt may allow enough forward movement to put the person in danger from hitting the dashboard or steering wheel.
Some motorists justifiably fear what air bags can do. They have been blamed in the deaths of dozens of children and short adults - mostly women. They deploy with enough force to literally take the head off a small person.
So the federal government and auto makers are recommending always putting children in the back seat to avoid the danger. But adults usually sit in front - either driving the car or as a passenger.
It's incongruous that a device installed to improve safety would be the cause of so many deaths even though federal safety officials estimate air bags have saved countless lives.
Manufacturers of the devices and auto makers have admitted it is possible to make air bags that deploy more slowly and with less force. The expense of changing the design of air bags to make them safer and maintain their effectiveness should not be the first consideration.
Safe transportation of all people who ride in vehicles must be the top priority. Government mandates may be necessary to force auto makers to adjust how air bags operate or how air bags and seat belts work together. If a motorist chooses to disconnect the air bags, that decision should not mean a more dangerous ride.