You may have heard about BMW – not the government – urging that people who own certain BMW models not drive them. BMW being more concerned about “safety,” apparently, than the government that mandated air bags – which can and have killed.
The models BMW urges people not drive include the 3 and 5 Series sedans as well as X5 crossovers made circa 2000-2006 that were originally equipped with air bags made by Takata that turned out to be more likely than usually to kill – and did.
There are a number of interesting things to ponder here besides the curious indifference of the government to the danger posed by the air bags it mandated – and not just the ones that turned out to be defective.
Air bags – the various components that make up the system, including sensors and electrical connections – inevitably, unavoidably degrade over time. Just like everything else. Drive belts and hoses eventually need to replaced. It is why there are recommended service intervals that are wise to heed because if you don’t a belt will inevitably fray and fail – just as a hose will inevitably leak – leaving you stuck.
But when airbags fail, they can leave you dead.
Sophie Shulman, who is the deputy director of the federal regulatory apparat that forced everyone who buys a new car to sit in front of an explosive device when they drive it (or ride in it, if you’re a front seat passenger) says: “If you have a model year 2000-2006 BMW with a recalled Takata air bag, get it repaired immediately – for free. These inflators are two decades old now and, with every day that passes, they become even more dangerous as they can rupture even in a minor crash.”
I test drive new cars each week and as part of the process, I like to read through the owner’s manual of each car I drive. It is interesting reading. In the manuals of many new cars you will find advisories about the importance of having the vehicle’s air bags replaced after “x” number of years – typically, around 12-15. These advisories are not for defective air bags.
For just the same reason the manual tells you to have various other parts of the car checked – and replaced – after a certain number of miles/years go by. People are generally hip to the necessity.
Except as regards air bags.
The reason why is because of the catastrophic cost of replacing even one (the driver’s) air bag, which can easily run to $2,000. The typical car made since the early 2010s has four air bags and many later model vehicles have six – or more. All of them age out, eventually – just like a fan belt or radiator hose. The difference is that it doesn’t cost more than the car’s worth to replace an old fan belt or radiator hose.
Which brings up another thing. Who is most likely to be driving a 15-plus-year-old vehicle, such as the ones BMW is advising people to stop driving? If you said kids, you get a star. These BMWs are now beaters – and so are pretty much all cars that fall into the category of 15-plus-years old. They are old and high miles and so (relatively) cheap – having lost most of their original value.
That is why kids tend to drive them, not having the money to buy something newer.
Well, what about the children?
The government that mandated air bags isn’t mandating that these known-to-be-dangerous devices be removed from cars. The government urges replacement.
Note the commonality, politically, with the McGOP’s answer to Obamacare, which was not to repeal it but replace it – in other words, to keep it.
Keep in mind that even a new – and not defective – air bag inevitably becomes dangerous over time. The risks associated with that being entirely yours to bear – unless you have the means to mitigate them, as by spending more than the car is worth (by that time) to replace its tired air bags and all the peripherals.
Another interesting possibility raises its head – and I am reluctant to give voice to it. Maybe the fact that air bags inevitably become dangerous will be used as the justification to require that air bags – and all the peripherals – be replaced after “x” number of years.
In the interests of safety, you see.
There would be truth in this. But also insuperable cost. The latter serving as a kind of back-door “clunkers” program that could serve to force otherwise usable older vehicles off the road by making them impossibly expensive to maintain. The government could say it’s for the children – the ones most likely to face the danger of sitting in front of a decrepit and possibly malfunctioning air bag.
That they won’t be able to afford to replace the air bags would neatly serve to force them out of cars they could otherwise afford.
Just another “nudge” toward our owning-nothing-and-being-happy-about-it future?
It certainly trends in that direction.
Meanwhile, it would cost nothing to deactivate these dangerous air bags – including the new ones.
Well, excepting the freedom we once had to decide for ourselves whether to have (and have to pay for) an explosive device facing us every time we (and our kids) go for a drive.
. . .
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