HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Transportation is proposing eliminating the airbag requirement in motor vehicle inspections. It's a move that has the support of some experienced auto mechanics, who say the airbags do more harm than good.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says frontal airbags have reduced driver fatalities by 29 percent. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says nearly 290 people were killed by airbags, most of them in vehicles manufactured before 1998.
"If -- and that's a big word -- if airbags were safe, why does it hurt and kill children?" asked longtime auto mechanic George Nitta. He's convicted that airbags cause more injury in a crash.
"Have you seen someone who got slammed with an air bag? One of my customers did, and I looked at her and she looked like somebody slammed her in the face with a board," said Nitta.
The state' current administrative rules on motor vehicle safety inspections say that if a vehicle is equipped with frontal airbags, they must be fully functional.
"They want the right to be able to remove an airbag, if you have it in your car, because they feel -- many people that it's not safe," said state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, who's on the senate Transportation Committee. She's heard from those auto mechanics. And she's also concerned about the recalls of airbags manufactured by Takata, which has been sued because of exploding airbags.
"I think that's kinda led to some of the concerns whether this should really be required or optional," she said.
The state DOT said it's now reviewing a proposed amendment to the rules that would no longer require airbags. After the review is completed, the change will be posted on its website and public hearings will be held.
We asked Nitta if no longer having that requirement would allow a car's owner to disable its airbags.
"Right, right," he replied. "I recommend it."