Automotive Safety and the Airbag
The air bag has been the center of a nation-wide controversy for several decades. It’s high-powered potential for saving thousands of lives has made it one of the most effective safety devices of our time. However, as with any man-made technological device, the bag has it’s drawbacks. Its high-speed deployment can be potentially fatal to young children and small people. However, in our society, there is no such thing as a flawless technology.
The air bag has already saved over four thousand lives to date. The seat belt has also proven itself to be extremely effective in high speed crashes, however, it is still susceptible to breakage. The legislation that has followed the installment of the air bag fails to bring about a solution from governmental regulation agencies, car manufacturers, and consumer advocate groups. A compromise that devises a solution addressing the faults of the air bag is needed from these organizations. It’s shortcomings can not be resolved when these companies and organizations are as uncompromising as they have been in the past. There are various motives that govern the companies and the individual safety organizations.
These motives have governed the positons that they have taken in the past, as well as the legislation they choose to accept or decline, specifically the mandatory air bag installation. The car manufacturers are fully aware and, as a result, are not pleased with the yearly costs that the air bag adds to their yearly expenditures. The auto industry is proficient in their marketing skills, as they have made the car industry one of the most wealthy and successful industries in the world. These car manufacturers are well aware that safety, in many cases, does not sell. The auto industry would prefer to commercialize the high-speed horsepower offered in their car than the automatic seat belt and the air bag. Speed is a more profitable attribute in a car than an air bag.
The high speed horsepower will bring in more profit for them, as it has done so in the past. An air bag profit will come when these companies devise a “smart air” bag that will combat it’s drawbacks and in turn, make it a more marketable product. A smart air bag would gauge a person’s height, weight and distance from the bag. The bag would then adjust to these conditions accordingly to improve the safety of the situation. The smartest air bag will meet all the needs different people bring to the car. The bag can do this in a safe and cost-efficient manner.
The air bag idea first came about by a single man in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1952, John W. Hetrick could have never imagined that his invention would save so many lives, and at the same time be one of the most hated inventions of all time. Hetrick invented what he called a “safety cushion assembly for automotive vehicles” to reduce the likelihood of serious injuries during emergency braking and frontal collisions. Hetrick’s safety cushion is the true prototype of the air bags now gaining wide acceptance around the world. It is his air bag that served as the original model for those bags that are installed in today’s cars (Sherman 1).
Hetrick expains how he was inspired:
In the spring of 1952, my wife, my 7-year old daughter, Joan and I were out for a Sunday drive in our Chrysler Windsor. About three miles outside of Newport, we were watching for deer. Suddenly, there was a big rock in the road, just past the crest of the hill. I remember veering the car and quickly applying the brakes. We went into a ditch, but avoided hitting both a tree and a wooden fence. As I applied the brakes, my wife and I both threw our hands up to keep our daughter from hitting the dashboard (Sherman 2).
In the aftermath of the accident, Hetrick could not stop thinking about the protection his outstretched arms served during the course of the events. Hetrick’s trauma was his source of inspiration for a revolutionary safety device. Hetrick immediately returned .