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Air Bag Facts

Air bags have been credited with saving thousands of lives

by Autobytel Staff
February 17, 2006

Since their introduction, air bags have been credited with saving thousands of lives. When used in conjunction with a seatbelt, these passive restraints have reduced head injuries by 75% and chest injuries by 66%. There are several types of air bags on the market right now, including front air bags, side-mounted air bags, head air bags, and knee air bags. Each of these fills with a harmless gas when deployed, not air as the name suggests.Of concern for many people is the risk of injury or death during deployment. Between 1997 and 1998 there were 1,800,000 air bag deployments, of which 87 people were killed. The majority of these deaths resulted from the occupant sitting too close to the air bag. Sitting too close to an air bag can also result in head, neck or chest injuries when it deploys. A safe distance for adults to sit is at least ten inches from the air bag, whereas children should not sit in front of an air bag at all. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) allows vehicle owners to obtain approval to have an on-off switch installed for the driver and/or the passenger side air bags. To qualify for permission to have an on-off switch installed, you must meet the following criteria: You cannot sit in a position allowing 10 inches between the center of the steering wheel and the center of your breastbone. You must transport infants riding in rear-facing infant seats in the front passenger seat. You must transport children ages 1 to 12 in the front passenger seat. Your doctors recommend that the air bag poses a special risk to your health that outweighs the risk of hitting your head, neck or chest in a crash if the air bag is disengaged. The majority of people do not need an on-off switch, and almost everyone older than 12 years is much safer with air bags than without them. To use your air bag correctly, follow these tips: Move the seat at least ten inches from an air bag and use your seatbelt every time. Place children under 12 in the back seat. Drive with both hands on the side of the wheel, not draped or laced, to prevent a broken arm if the air bag deploys. Don't smoke in the car, as you could be burned if the air bag deploys. Have the air bag inspected every ten years. Replace the air bag after it is deployed.


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