When it comes to vehicular safety, be careful what you wish for.

My wife and I had been shopping for a car. Somehow we had survived in California for 9 months with only one. Our search was for a used car but new enough to have side air bags. We spend a lot of time on large highways with many cars on either side of us, something we were not used to back in rural New Hampshire.

In September we took a Road Trip. It was rather spontaneous. Our son made a sudden decision to move from Santa Fe to Washington, DC for very noble reasons. As Good Parents, we offered to help. He took us up on the offer by letting us drive a small rented truck that he filled with personal goods and dropped off in Denver. He went ahead in his car.

We flew to Denver, spent the night with family and then fired up the truck. We had low expectations of vehicular comfort in this truck, being spoiled by our one very smooth and quiet car. The truck met our expectations. It has been a long time since I drove a vehicle with crank windows and manual door locks. Given our recent car shopping, I certainly had no expectations of side airbags. There were none. Despite the 2000 mile drive ahead of us, we were willing to compromise on our desired level of personal safety for this special case.

As we pulled out onto the Highways of America, we made further discoveries about our rented vehicle. Not only were there no side airbags, there was no passenger airbag at all. And it was not a secret. This dashboard sticker was quite clear.

Now, I am not a demographic researcher by trade, but I have to wonder about the option package of this truck. It was a small van-truck outfitted with two bucket seats. How many parents do you think might rent a truck and take along a small child as the sole passenger? It seems like a rare case. Yet the truck is outfitted for just such a situation.

The driver’s side of the truck provided more surprise. On first taking the wheel, I had noted the presence of an airbag for the driver. This told me that the truck was not, at least, from the 1950’s. When we discovered the lack of a passenger airbag, I took some guilty comfort in knowing that at least the driver, which was me at the time, would be protected if needed.

My comfort was diminished by this second sticker displayed on the driver-side visor.

Apparently the airbag played a token role in this vehicle. And worse. I was a bit dismayed to see that my seat was already pushed back as far as it would go. Suddenly I wished that I was driving from the passenger side.

So off we went, 2000 miles in a truck that not only failed to meet our desired safety levels, it strongly suggested that we avoid circumstances in which its one airbag be deployed. Apparently the consequences of a crash could be compounded by the safety device itself.

I waited for the trip to complete before posting this, just in case our gamble ended poorly. We only had one close call that we know of in those 2000 miles. When we last saw the truck, its one killer airbag is still safely tucked where it belonged.

Safety Second!

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