Honolulu Star-Bulletin - Kokua Line

Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Tuesday, July 20, 1999

Air bag switches
not easy to get

Question: There is so much about car air bags being OK or causing harm. Just what is the situation with them? Do car mechanics deactivate air bags if you ask?

Answer: In Hawaii, only two companies -- one on Maui and the other on the Big Island -- now will install air bag on-off switches, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration listing.

A third company listed, on Oahu, has opted not to offer the service.

Since 1995, the NHTSA has allowed on-off switches in pickup trucks, sports cars or other vehicles with no back seats or back seats that are too small to accommodate rear-facing infant seats.

But for vehicles without that built-in switch, a strict process for installation must be followed, requiring owners to obtain an informational brochure and request form from the NHTSA.

Owners must certify that they have read the brochure and that they, or someone they transport in their vehicle, are in one of four groups of people at risk of injury or death from air bags.

They are: adults who must put children in the front seat because of car pools or large families; short drivers who cannot sit far enough from the air bag; people with medical conditions that must be monitored or for whom the air bag would be dangerous; and adults who must put a rear-facing infant seat in the front because of a medical problem or no back seat.

If NHTSA approves the request, the owner then must present the letter to a dealer willing to do the job. The NHTSA says it does not certify installers and cannot require any dealer to disable an air bag.

The NHTSA listed Masaki's Auto Repair on Beretania Street as an installer, but owner Dave Masaki has opted not to offer the service.

He took a class on the subject and "I thought it was interesting." But he also felt it was too risky in the event something went wrong.

On Maui, Cutter Automotive Center in Kahului has been installing switches since the NHTSA approved them in 1997. But it's installed only two or three a year at the most, said service manager Mike Facer.

"We have no objections to doing it as long as everything is legal," he said. "As long as the paperwork is in place and everything has been properly documented, the customer obviously requested it."

On the Big Island, the Kailua-Kona operations of Hawaii Motors Inc. also will install switches, said service director Brian Nakasone.

But only about three people have requested the switches, he said.

"The only time we get a little bit concerned," he said, is when requests come from people who don't own General Motors vehicles. In that case, unless specific information is provided on wiring, etc., "we won't do it."

For more information, write to Administrator (NAO-10) NHTSA, 400 Seventh St. SW, Washington, DC 20590.


To whoever defaced the brick walkway near the Atkinson Towers Co-op along the new Ala Wai Promenade on June 12. Maybe this should be a regular part of HPD's Cushman patrol. This atrocity is in addition to dog owners who refuse to pick up their pets' poop. -- No name


As I was looking at a map, a lady came upon me and took me to the place I was looking for. May a good Samaritan help her as she helped me. -- E. Oda

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
Email to kokualine@starbulletin.com

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