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Facts About Air Bags And Seatbelts

  • Air bags work when an electronic sensor in the car senses a sudden, sharp deceleration (such as a crash) and detonates a small charge which inflates the bags.
  • Air bags have deployed approximately 800,000 times since 1995, saving more than 1,700 lives.
  • Fatal injuries have been reduced by 11% to drivers in an automobile collision in which an air bag has been deployed.
  • The air bag is inflated at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. This faster than the blink of an eye.
  • At the start of the 1998 model year, all new passenger cars sold in the United States must have both driver and passenger side air bags.
  • Light trucks will be required to comply with this law beginning in 1999.
  • Air bags are not designed to replace seat belts, they are to supplement lap and shoulder restraints to help limit head and chest injuries.
  • If a passenger or driver is not fully restrained they may contact the air bag before it is fully inflated, they may sustain serious or fatal injuries.
  • Since July 1996, 22 infants and children, and 19 adults, mostly elderly or short individuals, have been killed by inflating air bags. Most did not have seatbelts in place, or were improperly seated in the rear facing car seats in the vehicle’s front seat.
  • Air bag injuries have also included head and neck injuries, and arm and chest fractures.
  • Hospital injury claims have been reduced by 24%.

How to Keep Children Safe

  • Children under the age of 12 should ride buckled up in the back seat.
  • Small children should ride in the back seat in a car seat that is approved for their age and size.
  • Never put infants, seated in rear facing car seats, in the front seat of a car with a passenger side air bag.
  • If an infant must ride in the front seat of a car that has a passenger side air bag, put the infant in a front facing car seat. Children that must ride in the front seat should use a booster seat, or a correct fitting lap and shoulder belt, and then move the seat back as far as possible.

How to Keep Adults Safe

  • Remember air bags are supplemental devices. Use both lap and shoulder belts on every drive.
  • Wear the lap belt under the abdomen and low across the hip.
  • Wear the shoulder belt portion down over the collar bone away from the neck and cross over the breast bone.
  • The driver and passenger should move their seats as far back as practical, especially for people that are smaller in stature.
  • Try to keep a 10 inch margin between the steering wheel and your breast bone. If you cannot keep a 10 inch margin, then try the following: Tilt the steering wheel downward, this will aim the air bag at your chest instead of your head and neck; Slightly recline your seat back, this may help you achieve the 10 inch margin. However, if reclining the seat back hinders your view of the road, raise yourself by using a non-slippery, firm cushion, or raise your seat if the vehicle has a lumbar option.


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