Posted On: October 21, 2006 by Christopher T. Hurley

Side airbags that protect the head substantially reduce death risk in cars & SUVs

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is reporting that side airbags that protect auto occupant’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. The study found that head-protecting side airbags reduce driver fatality risk when cars are struck by SUVs and pickups as well as other cars, which is noteworthy since fatality risk historically has been higher when occupants of cars have been struck by the higher riding vehicles.

“Although federal regulations don't require side airbags in passenger vehicles, more and more manufacturers are installing them. In part this is the result of a voluntary agreement among automakers, forged in 2003, to improve occupant protection in side impacts with SUVs and pickups — an agreement that essentially will result in all cars, SUVs, and pickups being equipped with side airbags with head protection by the 2010 model year.”

About four of every five new car and SUV models already have standard or optional side airbags that include head protection. Unfortunately, pickup truck manufacturers are not focusing on driver safety. The IIHS study reported that only one 2006 model pickup comes equipped with standard side airbags that protect the head. Fewer than half of all pickups have side airbags as an option.

In some instances airbags will fail to deploy in a collision, resulting in serious injuriy, due to a defective design or a defect in the manufacturing process by the automaker, or because a third-party such as a dealership has failed to repair the device after a prior collision. My firm has handled these types of cases, and can discuss them with you.

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