RALEIGH, NC - A recent news investigation discovered not all of North Carolina's state-owned vehicles have side air bags, according to ABC11.com.
The ABC 11 Eyewitness News I-Team discovered the State of North Carolina bought approximately 750 Chevrolet Impalas and chose not to have the side air bags included as a way of cutting costs. Head-curtain side impact air bags were shown as "deleted" on the state contract for the Impalas, for a $145 savings per vehicle, reported ABC11.
General Motors previously did not require side air bags on fleet models; however, in September the automaker announced it would no longer allow fleet customers to opt-out of the safety devices beginning with 2010 models.
The vehicles lacking air bags are driven by people who work for virtually every state agency - including The Department of Correction, Department of Transportation, and universities such as NC State, NC Central, UNC Chapel Hill, and Fayetteville State, according to ABC11.
State employees were unaware the cars were not equipped the safety features, reported ABC11.
State Purchasing Officer James Staton, in a statement to ABC, said "The bid specifications were approved at pre-bid conferences with user agencies, vendors and Motor Fleet Management...As is typical in fleet models, these vehicles did not include optional equipment found in some retail models in order to lower the per-vehicle cost to fleet buyers - in this case, taxpayers."
Beginning with the 2010 model-year, automakers have agreed to include side airbag protection.