Newer Airbags Safety Claims May Be Inflated, Says IIHS

Newer Airbags Safety Claims May Be Inflated, Says IIHS

As time goes on and innovations are being implemented to existing safety products, you’d think that they would get, well, safer. But that might not be the case when it comes to the newest type of airbag, as a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows.

Raising all kinds of questions about airbags that were required in vehicles from 2004 to 2008, this IIHS study says that they may actually place drivers who wear their seat belts at a greater risk of death.

This research is based on statistical analysis of 3,600 driver and front-seat passenger deaths that were the result of frontal crashes between 2004 and 2007. While it found that the newest type of airbags helped unbelted people about the same as older airbags, belted drivers had a 21 percent greater chance of dying.

“It is possible that the systems are not making the right decisions,” said David Zuby, Senior Vice President for Vehicle Research at the IIHS. “Under previous requirements, air bags didn’t need to be quite so sophisticated.”

Even though the study didn’t come up with reasons why belted drivers are at greater risk, safety experts are throwing out a few explanations. The one that holds the most validity is that automakers design airbags for unbelted drivers, as they are required to test for this percentage of the driving population – even though 80 percent of drivers wear seat belts.

This research was presented in January at a convention of auto engineers, but hasn’t received widespread attention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the organization that regulates air bags, met with the researchers and carmakers in March but hasn’t commented on the study, stating they had not had time to fully review it.

[Source: Kicking Tires]