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Air Bags

Auto air bags have deployed in over 2 million crashes, saving more than 3,600 lives and preventing countless serious injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 4,126 people are alive today because of their air bags. However, recent media attention has raised concern about air bag safety by pinpointing a few cases when air bags were blamed for the death or injury of unrestrained or improperly-restrained passengers.

Air bags are supplemental restraints and will be most effective only when used with seat restraints. You can reduce the risk of potential air bag hazards by simply following a few safety precautions and seat belt restraint rules.

Air bags: A safety barrier, not a billowy pillow
The purpose of the air bag is to save lives by creating a barrier between the passenger and the dash; it is not a soft, billowy pillow.

An effective air bag deploys very rapidly -- faster than the blink of an eye. The force required to inflate an air bag at this speed can injure an occupant who is too close to the bag as it inflates.

Airbags and seat belts in safety testing For example, hitting your car brakes just before an accident may cause an unbelted or improperly restrained passenger to be thrown toward the dashboard, putting them too close to the air bag housing.

Inflating air bags have caused a small number of deaths or serious injuries to children, smaller-stature adults, and pregnant women. Since 1990, 132 deaths have reportedly been caused by air bags. Most were not using any seat belt restraints or were improperly seated in rear-facing restraints in the vehicle's front seat. Injuries due to air bag deployment have included head and neck injuries and arm fractures.

Take these precautions
By educating ourselves and others that air bags save lives and work best when everyone is buckled and kids are in the back seat, we can reduce air bag hazards. This information highlights examples of safety precautions you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your property.

The following list is not meant to be all-encompassing. Moreover, a particular precaution may not be effective in all circumstances. Follow these simple safety rules to reduce the risk of injury by a deploying air bag:

 Kids ride in back
In vehicles with passenger-side air bags, never place an infant secured in a rear-facing infant safety seat in the front seat. The infant carrier should be seat belted in the back seat. Children who are five feet or shorter should also ride buckled in the back seat, never in front.

 Child safety seats
Young children and infants should always ride in age- and size-appropriate child safety seats. The safety seat should be held properly in place by the vehicle's safety belts and the child should be correctly buckled in the child safety seat.

 Adults should wear both lap and shoulder belts
The shoulder strap should cross the collarbone. The lap belt should fit low and tight on the hips. The shoulder strap should never be slipped behind the back or under the arm. This is a dangerous habit, especially in cars with air bags.

 Take additional air bag safety measures
Special safety rules apply for smaller-stature adults and pregnant women. For instance, move the front seat as far back from the dashboard as you can without compromising your ability to drive.

When in doubt, remember this easy safety rule:

Buckle everyone up
Seat children in back

This article includes copyrighted material used by permission from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Related links:
  Air Bag Safety
  Passenger Safety
  In Case of an Accident
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