Study: Side Airbags Reduce Driver Deaths by 37%
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Side airbags that provide head protection reduce driver deaths by 37 percent, while side airbags that protect only the chest and abdomen reduce deaths by 26 percent, said a study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), according to the Detroit News. The study also found that side airbags are especially helpful in SUV accidents, with head-protecting side airbags reducing the risk of death by 52 percent and torso airbags by 30 percent.
After frontal crashes, side-impact crashes are the most deadly, killing about 9,300 people nationwide annually. They accounted for 29 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2005, according to the study. As many as 2,000 lives could be saved a year with side airbags if they were included in all vehicles, the study said.
In Dec. 2003, major automakers signed a seven-page voluntary agreement with IIHS, promising by Sept. 2009, to offer improved side impact protection for drivers and passengers’ heads. Under the agreement, the automakers annually report their progress to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), according to the Detroit News.
The IIHS analysis of lives saved with side airbags is twice as high as NHTSA’s estimate. When NHTSA proposed a tougher side impact standard in March 2004, it said it would save between 700 and 1,000 lives annually.