Newer Air Bags Could Be Doing More Harm To Belted Drivers Than Good

Buckling up is the law, but a new study is raising an important question — is the very act of clicking the seat belt in place putting drivers and front seat passengers at more risk from their air bags in a crash?

In a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and reported by The New York Times, research suggests that the newest versions of air bags, required in all cars starting in 2008 or even 2004 in some cases, could be increasing the likelihood of death for front seat passengers and drivers in crashes. Estimates suggest that 80 percent of drivers don seat belts nowadays, but the regulations for air bags were created when less drivers used the safety devices.

The main area of concern to researchers is that finding that belted drivers “had a 21 percent greater chance of dying in cars equipped with the latest model of air bags than those in vehicles with the previous model. The risk for unbelted drivers was unchanged.”

The study, based on statistical analysis of more than 3,6000 deaths of those riding in the front of car between 2004 and 2007 and involved in frontal crashes seems to point to the fact that newer air bags could be more of a help to unbelted drivers to belted ones.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t buckle up.

“The fact is that we’re not getting optimal protection for belted drivers,” David Zuby, senior vice president for vehicle research at the insurance institute said, adding, “The study does not suggest that people should turn off their air bags nor does it suggest that people should unbuckle their seat belts. It says that government regulations and air bag designers could do a better job of protecting belted drivers.”

Study Pokes Holes in Air Bag Standards [The New York Times]