Middle Lane

Bags, belts—and a loophole

It has been 15 years since the Government first recommended that air bags be required in all passenger cars. Since then, wrangling among politicians, consumer advocates and the auto industry has delayed the controversial measure, which safety experts estimate could reduce highway deaths by up to 40% (the 1983 U.S. toll: 43,028). Last week Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole finally came up with a resolution, of sorts. She proposed that mandatory passive restraints—air bags that inflate and then rapidly deflate upon collision or seat belts that automatically wrap around riders when they close their doors—be phased...

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