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Airbags: Technology reducing injury and saving lives

17ike-rav4-ng-srs-airbags-940x529Fatality rates from car accidents have been dropping every year and it’s fairly common for many of the most popular vehicles to earn top safety ratings from the federal government’s crash test program.

Airbags are a big part of this trend. Frontal airbags have been a federal requirement since the 1999 model year. Side airbags, which are not federally mandated, were standard on 90.3% of 2013 vehicles, according to the IIHS. Side impact airbags are designed to protect the head and torso in side impact collisions.

In frontal crashes, frontal airbags reduce driver fatalities by 29% and fatalities of front-seat passengers age 13 and older by 32 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Most new cars today come with a plethora of airbags: frontal airbags, side torso airbags and side curtain airbags. Some vehicles even have rear-seat airbags.

New types of airbags being pioneered by auto manufacturers promise to make driving even safer.

Knee Airbags: This small airbag is designed to minimize injuries to the lower limbs as they make contact with the dashboard. Knee airbags are located in the footwell, under the steering column on the driver side and under the glovebox on the passenger side. Many vehicles from Toyotas to Fords feature these types of airbags.

Front Center Airbag: This airbag deploys from the right side of the driver seat and positions itself between the front row seats near the center of the vehicle. GM, who has such an airbag on its Enclave SUV, says that the new airbag is designed to provide restraint during passenger-side crashes when the driver is alone, and also acts as an energy-absorbing cushion between driver and front passenger in both driver-side and passenger-side crashes. The airbag is also designed to minimize injury in rollover accidents.

Inflatable Seatbelts: In 2011, Ford introduced inflatable rear seatbelts its Explorer SUV. Ford says that it designed the inflatable seatbelts to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers, who are often children and the elderly and who can be more vulnerable to such injuries.

While airbags have been able to minimize certain types of injuries, they have not eliminated injuries sustained in auto accidents entirely. If you have been injured in an auto accident, you should consult with a personal injury attorney immediately.

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