Air Bag Usage
Air bags have, and will save thousands of lives each year, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In frontal crashes, air bags reduce deaths among front seat persons by about 28 percent.
Air bags deploy at approximately 150 MPH or more and can be dangerous. Persons sitting unbelted in the front seat can be catapulted into the path of a deploying air bag. This applies to drivers as well as passengers. Infants in rear-facing safety seats on the passenger side can be severely injured because their heads are in the direct path of an inflating air bag.
Prevent Air Bag Injuries
Drivers should have all children sit in the backseat wearing a safety belt. Infants should be placed in rear-facing car seats and put in the center of the backseat. Small persons should keep the seat back so that they are at least 10 inches from the air bag cover.
If this is not possible, air bag switches can be installed so that the vehicle owner has the option of turning the bag off or on, depending on the situation. In January 1998, NHTSA allowed auto dealers and repair shops to begin installing air bag cut-off switches. Before the switch can be installed, vehicle owners must complete a four-step process:
Obtain an information brochure and request form from NHTSA, dealerships or repair shops. Return the form to NHTSA.
- Receive authorization from NHTSA after it reviews the case.
Take the vehicle to the service shop along with the authorization from NHTSA which certifies that the owner has read the brochure and met one of the four eligibility classifications:
- rear-facing infant seat can be in the front (necessary if the vehicle has no back-seat)
driver's seat cannot be adjusted to keep more than 10 inches between the driver and the steering wheel
putting a child 12 or under in the front seat can not be avoided
having a medical condition that puts them at risk of injury when an air bag deploys