Automotive Air Bags Essay Research Paper American

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Automotive Air Bags Essay, Research Paper American politics, for better or worse, is prone to elitist control of various issues, some of which affect the general public in significant ways. This system is described by the distributive model of politics, where people representing narrow segments of society with high stakes in a particular issue influence public policy to a substantial degree. This explanation of policy making can be effectively used to examine and explain some political actions. However, the model is not without its flaws, and other models have developed to explain policy changes that take place under different circumstances, and with anomalous results. In areas dealing with science and technology, the knowledge-driven approach is often employed to explain

policy transitions that do not fit the distributive model. The knowledge-driven approach examines how technological and scientific advances that favor diffuse interests can be used by policy entrepreneurs to bring about broad change, often against powerful and determined special interest groups. The case of air bag regulation can be used to describe and examine both the distributive and knowledge-driven models, as it originally fit distributive explanations, and was eventually taken over by the knowledge-driven system. The discussion of air bag regulation will include an overview of the relevant events, an examination of the distributive system of auto safety, and an explanation of the eventual changes ushered in under the knowledge-driven system. The issue of auto safety

regulation began to receive attention in the sixties, when death due to auto accidents rose from under 40,000 deaths in 1960 to nearly 55,000 in 1969 (Fortune, 100). In 1965 and 1966 congressional committees held hearings on specific incidents of automotive safety neglect, which resulted in the passing of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (Nader, Unsafe, xvii). This act was the first of its kind, giving the federal government the right to impose automotive safety regulations on the auto industry. The job of regulation was delegated to the National Highway Safety Bureau (now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), a division of the Department of Transportation. This department was given the authority to impose safety regulations, review industry compliance, and

study automotive safety in general. In 1970 and 1971 the automotive industry began to discuss the use of passive restraints in collisions to increase safety. Passive restraints are those which do not require any actions on the part of the driver or passengers, unlike seatbelts. The most popular and seemingly most feasible solution was the air bag. This bag, placed in front of the driver, would deploy automatically in an accident. Initially, the NHTSA planned on making air bags mandatory on ^?all cars built in or imported into this country after Jan. 1, 1973 (Wargo, 11).^? The auto industry responded negatively, saying that there was not enough time to develop a working system, and that a premature addition would open the auto industry up to excessive liability suits. The NHTSA

did not issue the controversial mandate for 1973, but instead issued a mandate that all cars must have passive restraints by 1976. The safety regulations, continually attacked by auto industry experts, were delayed time and again. The situation reached such a standstill that Ralph Nader, policy entrepreneur, accused the NHTSA of ^?A virtual de facto moratorium of its safety standards function (Nader, Washington, 2).^? This continued until 1977, when President Carter appointed former Ralph Nader lobbyist Joan Claybrook to head the NHTSA. Claybrook actively sought to establish an effective safety restraint law, and her efforts partially paid off when Transportation Secretary Brock Adams ordered all new cars to have safety belts or air bags by 1984 (CQ, 1-2). Debates ensued between