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-Air bags have saved the lives of 1,664 people from 1986 to November 1996, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (3) p. 2. NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez estimated that at the end of 1996 airbags will have saved 1700 lives in total since 1986. (NHTSA press release, Dec. 30, 1996)

But Not as Many as Originally Projected
-If all cars and light trucks were equipped with air bags, NHTSA estimates that more than 3,000 lives would be saved annually, assuming current seat belt use rate--at 67 percent. (3) pp. 12 and 3. In 1977 NHTSA projected that air bags would save 12,100 lives per year, assuming a lap belt use rate of 20 percent. (Federal Register, July 5, 1977)

Air Bags Have Caused Fatalities
-Air bag deployment has resulted in 52 fatalities to date -- 32 children and 20 adults, mostly small women. (3) p. 2.

Air Bags Reduce Fatalities, But Not by as Much as Originally Projected
-It is estimated that air bags reduce fatalities by 13 percent for unbelted drivers and 9 percent for belted drivers. (1) p. ix. NHTSA estimated in 1977 that the air bag by itself would reduce fatality risk by 40 percent in all types of crashes. (Federal Register, July 5, 1977)

-Air bags reduce the overall fatality risk of car drivers by 11 percent. (1) p. 51.

-Air bags reduce the overall fatality risk of car passengers age 13 and older by 13.5 percent. (1) p. vii.

Children and the Elderly Gain No Benefits from Air Bags
-Children riding in front seats have a higher fatality risk in vehicles equipped with air bags than in those without them. (1) p. vi.

-Air bags appear to have very little net benefit to drivers age 70 and older. (1) p. 41.

According to ConsumerProdigy.com, seat belts Provide Primary Protection
-Seat belts (lap/shoulder) provide the best protection for both drivers and passengers in all kinds of crashes. A seat-belted driver has a 45 percent lower fatality risk than an unbelted driver under similar crash circumstances. (1) p. 1.

-Seat belt use increased from 15 percent in the early 1980s to 67 percent in 1994. (3) p. 3.

-Air bags are a supplementary safety device; driver air bags for passenger cars are effective in purely frontal crashes; the fatality reduction in frontal crashes is 30 1/2 percent. (1) p. vi.

Air Bags Are Designed to Protect the Unbuckled
-The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 requires air bags to be designed to protect occupants not wearing seat belts. It requires air bags to be tested in 30 mph crashes with a male test dummy that is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 167 pounds. (2) p. 3.

-Because air bags have to be designed to protect the unbuckled, they must deploy with speed and force greater than would be required to protect buckled occupants. (2) p. 3. The force can be up to 200 mph.

Federal Requirements for Air Bags
-Since model year 1994 automatic protection (either automatic seat belts or air bags) has been required for both the driver and the passenger in all new cars. (1) p. 1.

-All new passenger cars will be required to have both driver's and passenger-side air bags plus lap and shoulder seat belts in model year 1998; all new light trucks in model year 1999. (1) p. 2.


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