A study released today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides more proof that torso and head side air bags can make a dramatic difference in the number of motorist deaths from side impact collisions.
The federal government has mandated the installation of such air bags in all automobiles, but the mandate won’t become fully effective until the year 2010. Thousands of vehicles will be manufactured between now and then, and every one of those vehicles would provide greater safety to the driver and occupants if manufacturers would voluntarily install side air bags.
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many other lawyers and safety experts, it is negligent for auto manufacturers not to install side air bags immediately.
Here are selected quotes from the press release of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
Side airbags that protect people’s heads are reducing driver deaths in cars struck on the near (driver) side by an estimated 37 percent. Airbags that protect only the chest and abdomen but not the head are reducing deaths by 26 percent.
“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,” says Anne McCartt, Institute vice president for research and an author of the study.
The overall research findings echo those of a 2003 Institute study of side airbag effectiveness in cars. Data weren’t sufficient then to compute fatality risk reductions for drivers of SUVs, but this time around there were enough data. Fatality risk in SUVs went down 52 percent with head-protecting side airbags and 30 percent with airbags that protect the chest and abdomen but not the head.
Findings track results of the Institute’s side crash tests conducted since 2003 for consumer information. All 33 current models with good ratings in this test are equipped with head-protecting side airbags.
“Once every passenger vehicle on the road has side airbags that include head protection for front-seat occupants, we can save as many as 2,000 lives per year,” McCartt concludes.