??ver 163 million (72.8 %) of the more than 224 million cars and light trucks on U.S. roads have driver airbags. Over 144 million (64.2 %) of these also have passenger airbags. Another 1 million new vehicles with airbags are being sold each month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 18,319 people are alive today because of their airbags.
?Deaths in frontal crashes are reduced about 26 percent among drivers using safety belts and about 32 percent among drivers without belts. Starting with the 1998 model year, airbags typically deploy with less force. Research shows that, overall, drivers of these vehicles still are provided full protection in frontal crashes. Driver death rates are estimated to be 6 percent lower in 1998 and 1999 model passenger vehicles, compared with 1997 models.
Deaths in frontal crashes are reduced about 14 percent among right front passengers using their belts and about 23 percent among passengers without belts. However, deaths are about 34 percent higher than expected among child passengers younger than 10.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the combination of an airbag plus a lap/shoulder belt reduces the risk of serious head injury among drivers by 85 percent compared with a 60 percent reduction for belts alone.
Since 1990, 262 deaths reportedly have been caused by airbags inflating in low severity crashes, most of them in older model vehicles. These deaths include 87 drivers, 13 adult passengers, 138 children, and 24 infants.
Of the 87 drivers killed by airbags, (65 females, 22 males), 55 are believed to have been unbelted, 25 were belted, and 4 misused their seatbelts. Two of the belted drivers were unconscious and slumped over their steering wheels. Belt use is unknown for the other three drivers.
Of the 13 adult passengers killed by passenger airbags, 11 were females (8 were older than 65 years-old) and 2 were males ages 57 and 85. Eight adult passengers are believed to have been unbelted or improperly belted, 5 were belted. Eight of the incidents involved pre-impact braking.
Of the 138 children killed by passenger airbags, 109 are believed to have been unrestrained; 23 children were improperly restrained, 5 were restrained and 1 case unknown. Twenty-three of the unrestrained children were seated in the lap of a front passenger and 3 were unrestrained and on the lap of the driver. Most of these crashes involved pre-impact braking.
Of the 24 infants killed by airbags, 12 are believed to be restrained in rear-facing infant seats; 4 in rear-facing restraints on laps; 5 were not properly secured in rear-facing restraints and 3 unknown if properly restrained. Sixteen cases involved pre-impact braking and in 1 case pre-impact braking is unknown.