For the past several years, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have been the best-selling cars in the United States. They've also been the most-stolen, according to the latest information from Chicago-based CCC Information Services Group Inc.
It's not so much that thieves have good taste as it is that auto theft is a logical business.
All cars and trucks have parts. All vehicle parts eventually need to be replaced. The more popular the vehicle, the greater the availability of, and the demand for, its parts. Why do you thinks thieves strip cars?
Other highly snatched mobiles include Ford Motor Co.'s F-150 pickup truck, long the best-selling truck in America; General Motors Corp.'s 4x2 C/K series pickups, also hot sellers; the Ford Mustang; and the one-time darling of the nation's police departments, the Chevrolet Caprice.
Law enforcement authorities say you can lessen your vehicle's chances of making the most-stolen list by layering anti-theft devices. Think of it as the hardware equivalent of putting on an undershirt, then a top shirt, sweater and jacket.
In the case of cars and trucks, you install a visible deterrent, such as a steering-wheel lock; invisible deterrents, such as ignition and engine disabling devices; and a tracking mechanism, such as LoJack (www.lojack.com), the most popular electronic stolen vehicle recovery system.
Air bag tests mulled
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is in the midst of a head-scratching exercise, trying to figure out what to do for the next generation of air bag tests. Here's the problem: The first generation of air bags killed an estimated 150 people, mostly unbelted infants and children and small-framed adults sitting in front seats.
They were fatally injured by bags designed to protect an unbelted, mid-size adult male. That means, in effect, the early bags were too powerful for toddlers and others who were considerably smaller than the ''average'' adult men.
DOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went through a series of mind-benders trying to remedy the situation. The government ''depowered'' bags, meaning that it allowed car companies to begin installing bags that deployed with substantially less force than the first-generation models. Then, the government approved the installation of on-off switches for passenger-side bags.
But consumer groups still want the government to do crash tests using unbelted occupants in which cars are crashed at 30 miles per hour. Automakers, medical and auto insurers, and others say this is nuts. The opponents want belted tests -- and they prefer that those tests be run at 25 miles per hour which, automakers and insurers say, would yield safer air bags for all properly restrained vehicle occupants.
But the consumer groups, led by Washington-based Public Citizen, say the car companies are trying to weasel out of producing tougher, more expensive bags.
Maybe. Maybe not.
All I know is that over the past decade, the DOT has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to encourage Americans to buckle up. Indeed, last month Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater announced a $25 million grant to increase seat-belt use in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Why spend all of that money if you're going to implement a crash-test program to protect adults who refuse to buckle-up and obey the law?
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