Saturday, June 12, 2010

If you had doubts that our current car-based, suburban version of the American Dream wasn't something that was heavily lobbied, you could also read about how the Reagan administration prevented you from driving more safely:

All that ended in January 1981, when the "Morning in America" team from the Reagan administration halted the RSV [Research Safety Vehicles] work...

After exploring whether the Smithsonian wanted any of the RSV cars (they did), NHTSA revealed under a Freedom of Information Act query that it had quietly sent all remaining cars to be destroyed. On July 1, 1991, the RSV showcar was crashed into a barrier at 50 mph with no dummies inside, and its airbags shut off.

Then-NHTSA chief Jerry Curry contended the vehicles were obsolete, and that anyone who could have learned something from them had done so by then. Claybrook, the NHTSA chief who'd overseen the RSV cars through 1980, told Congress the destruction compared to the Nazis burning books.

"Junking those cars was a terrible idea," said Kelley, who now teaches at Tufts medical school. "What is the benefit of keeping anything that's historically important? The future wants to know more about the past, and when you destroy the past, you destroy the future's access to knowing about it."

"I thought they were intentionally destroying the evidence that you could do much better," said Friedman.

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