The U.S. government credits airbags with saving nearly 14,000 lives since 1987. The safety features of side-impact airbags are earning acclaim. Recent crash tests released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on November 16 show that side airbags are effective in preventing fatal crashes.
The new IIHS research shows that side airbags with head protection reduce deaths by 45 percent among drivers of cars struck on the driver's side. Though every new car and truck today now comes equipped with front airbags, the government doesn't require manufacturers to sell vehicles with side-impact airbags. Automakers, however, do offer side-impact airbags on many of their vehicles as options.
Side-impact crashes can be especially dangerous when cars are struck by SUVs and pickup trucks. The IIHS recently crashed a test barrier meant to replicate a large SUV or truck into several mid-size cars. The Institute's "best pick" in those tests was the Saab 9-3 — which comes with side curtain airbags and driver torso airbags as standard equipment. Saab says the structure of the car — with a patented “pendulum b-pillar” that absorbs crash energy away from car occupants — is what helps to protect occupants. The Saab 9-3 also was a "best pick" in the IIHS frontal offset test, making it the first "double best pick" for vehicles with standard equipment.