The National Safety Commission Alerts

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Study Shows Side Air Bags Reduce Fatalities

Side-impact Deaths Drop by Over 50% in Vehicles with Side Air Bags

According to a study recently released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, driver deaths in side-impact collisions dropped by over 50 percent in sport utility vehicles outfitted with head-protecting side air bags.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that if every vehicle had side air bags, the lives of about 2,000 drivers a year could be saved.

The same study found driver death dropped 30 percent in side collisions involving SUVs with side air bags that offer only chest and stomach protection.

In passenger vehicles hit on the driver's side, driver death declined 37 percent in cars with head-protecting side air bags, and dropped 26 percent for cars with side air bags offering only chest and abdomen protection.

"We found lower fatality risks across the board among older and younger drivers, male and female drivers, and drivers of both small cars and larger passenger vehicles," commented Anne McCartt, the institute's vice president, who authored the study.

Side air bags have helped motorists escape serious injury and death when struck along the vehicle's doors since they were first installed in the mid-1990s. Although much of a head-on crash’s impact is absorbed by the vehicles front air bags, there's little protection for a driver or passenger on the side without side air bags.

The results of this study are great news for auto safety advocates, who have expressed serious concerns over side-impact crashes. The government estimates that in 2004, 9,270 people were killed in side crashes, which accounts for almost 30 percent of all vehicle deaths.

In 2003, auto manufacturers vowed to install side air bags as standard equipment by the 2010 model year, and roughly four out of every five new cars and SUVs have head-protecting side air bags as standard or optional equipment today. As an option, the air bags typically cost between $500 to $700.

The National Safety Commission recommends The Driver Education Handbook for Parents as a valuable teaching tool for parents who are concerned with their teen's driving safety and understand the value of quality instruction.

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