Air Bag Requirements
1984 final rule required passive restraints -- phased in beginning September 1, 1986 for cars and September 1, 1995 for light trucks, vans, and SUVs
1991 ISTEA statute required air bags by September 1, 1997 for cars and September 1, 1998 for light trucks, vans, and SUVs.
Total Lives Saved: 5,065*
4,301 drivers saved by air bags
764 passengers saved by air bags
The combination of seat belts and air bags is 75% effective in preventing serious head injuries and 66% effective in preventing serious chest injuries
Effectiveness of Air Bags in Frontal Crashes**
Car drivers: 31 % fatality reduction
Car passengers: 32% fatality reduction
Light truck drivers: 36%
Confirmed Air Bag Deaths*
18 infants in rear-facing infant safety seats
69 children not in rear-facing child safety seats (4 restrained, but NHTSA questions whether they were properly restrained)
57 adult drivers
-- Female: 43 (19 under 5' 2") (15 properly belted)
-- Male: 14 (2 properly belted)
6 adult passengers
-- Female: 5 (3 under 5' 2")
-- Male: 1
40 unconfirmed cases still under investigation
Protection of Unbelted Occupants
Original purpose of air bags
The vast majority (roughly 72 %) of people saved by air bags have been unbelted occupants.
Approximately 62% of fatalities involve unbelted occupants
Air bags protect a higher percentage of unbelted occupants (34%) (many of them teenage drivers) than belted occupants (21%), in frontal crashes***
Number of vehicles with air bags (total: roughly 95 million)****
Roughly 60 million cars (almost one-half of cars on the road)
Roughly 35 million light trucks (about 41% of light trucks)
Approximately 68 million vehicles have both driver and passenger air bags
Approximately 27 million vehicles have driver air bags only
Air Bag Deployments
3.8 million air bag deployed from 1987 to 1999** (3.3 million driver-side deployments and 554,000 passenger-side deployments)
Median Speed (Delta V) of Frontal Fatal Crashes
30 mph (the speed now specified in all existing NHTSA standards, including Standard 208's unbelted crash test)
* NHTSA, Special Crash Investigation Summary (Jan. 1, 2000).
** NHTSA, Safety Fact Sheet (Nov. 2, 1999) (presenting air bag benefit estimates through Oct. 1, 1999).
*** NHTSA, Fourth Report to Congress -- Effectiveness of Occupant Protection Systems and Their Use (May 1999).
**** Based on NHTSA s Safety Fact Sheet (Nov. 2, 1999) and revised data from Air Bag Statistics (Dec. 9, 1999) compiled by IIHS.