The Year’s Worst Use of a Figure of Speech by a Bureaucrat?

Earlier this week Nicole Nason, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the following in describing the allegedly new interest of consumers in vehicle safety:

“Consumers used to take tepid sips of the safety Kool-Aid and are now gulping it down.”

Ms. Nason was addressing the Society of Automotive Engineers 2007 World Congress.

Ms. Nason needs to get a better grip on her metaphors. Ever since the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide, the primary meaning of the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” has been to blindly take poison at the urging of some leader.

Now it’s true that the phrase has some secondary meanings that are more in line with what she probably meant. On the other hand, some NHTSA endeavors have had pretty poisonous effects. Its airbag mandate turned out to be deadly to children, just as the auto industry warned it might be, until it was overhauled. And its fuel economy program, known as CAFE, continues to kill people through its downsizing effect on vehicles.

So in a sense, consumers need to keep a careful watch on what NHTSA puts in their cupholders.