Air Bag Safety and Children

Air bags reduce the risk of injury for properly belted adult passengers. Air bags are designed primarily for front impact crashes. Air bags are designed to supplement lap and shoulder belts to limit head and chest injuries. Air bags are not designed to replace seat belts. It is very important to wear the seatbelt when sitting in a seat equipped with an air bag.

Since the 1998 model year, all new passenger cars sold in the United States must have driver- and passenger-side air bags. Light trucks followed suit in 1999. However, prior to 1998 many vehicles were already equipped with air bags.

Benefits of Air Bags

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a part of the U. S. Department of Transportation, reports that frontal air bags have saved 25,782 lives between 1987 and 2008.* According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, frontal air bags reduce driver fatalities by 29% and fatalities of front-seat passengers 13 and older by 32%.** Air bags are very effective supplemental safety devices, and they are accomplishing their goal of saving lives.

How Do Air Bags Work?

Electronic sensors detect sudden, sharp decelerations (such as a crash) and detonate a small charge which inflates the bag. Air bags deploy at speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour - faster than your eye can blink. While slow-motion photographs may make an air bag appear as a soft, billowy pillow, a person who contacts an air bag before it is fully inflated may be seriously injured or killed. Once fully inflated, an air bag helps the seat belts to safely slow down the driver or passenger without injury.

Air Bags and Children

You absolutely must buckle any child 12 years and under in the back seat. Young children face a greater risk of injury if they contact an inflating air bag. Passenger-side air bags could severely injure or possibly kill your child. Buckling your child in the back seat is the best way to protect him or her from injury in any kind of vehicle crash or collision, even if you don't have an air bag. Additionally, a rear-facing car seat should never be placed in front of an active air bag.

Smart Air Bags

Since the 2004 model year, most vehicles have been equipped with systems that automatically turn the front passenger air bag on and off. It is important to check your vehicle owner’s manual to understand what type of air bag is in your vehicle. When determining what seating position to use for a young child, you should always assume that an air bag is active. The back seat remains the safest place for children under the age of 13.

Side Impact Air Bags

Air bags that deploy for side crashes or rollovers are designed to fill the space between the vehicle passenger and the door or window. They may be found in the front or rear rows of the vehicle. Usually, car seats and booster seats may be placed near side air bags. Always check your car seat and vehicle owner’s manuals for specific details regarding usage and safe placement of your car seat.

Inflatable Seat Belts

Inflatable seat belts cannot be used in any of Evenflo’s harnessed child restraints, which include infant, convertible or combination seats designed for use in motor vehicles and aircraft. If a seating position has an inflatable seat belt, Evenflo restraints can only be installed in this location using the lower anchor and tether belts in accordance with all applicable child restraint and vehicle instructions.

Other Air Bag Safety Tips

Remember, the safest place for a child under the age of 13 is in the back seat buckled securely in a seat belt or appropriate car seat or belt positioning booster seat. Additionally, the driver and front seat passenger should push their seats back as far as possible to minimize their risk of injury. And never rest anything on top of the air bag cover. If you have questions about your vehicle's air bag system, you can find your auto manufacturer's toll-free phone number in your vehicle owner's manual, or you can contact NHTSA's Auto Safety Hotline at 800-424-9393.

*Citation: http://www.safercar.gov/Air+Bags
**Citation: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/airbags/qanda