In 25 years – from 1987 to 2012 – frontal air bags saved 39,976 lives. That’s enough people to fill a major league ballpark. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides information about the safety benefits of frontal and side air bags and the importance of using seat belts – your first line of defense. We also test and provide guidance on the risks of counterfeit and defective air bags, and urge vehicle owners with recalled air bags to immediately get their air bags replaced by a dealer.
Air bags are supplemental restraints and are designed to work best in combination with seat belts. Both frontal and side-impact air bags are designed to deploy in moderate to severe crashes.
Air bags reduce the chance that an occupant’s upper body or head will strike the vehicle’s interior during a crash. To avoid an air-bag-related injury, always ensure proper seating position. Wearing your seat belt properly helps ensure that you’re properly seated.
Vehicles can be equipped with both front and side air bags (SABs). Frontal air bags have been standard equipment in all passenger cars since model year 1998 and all SUVs, pickups and vans since model year 1999. SABs are being offered as standards or optional equipment on many new passenger vehicles.
For more information on air bag safety, please visit nhtsa.gov/equipment/air-bags
One of the safest choices drivers and passengers can make is to buckle up. In 2015, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,941 lives. Many Americans understand the lifesaving value of the seat belt – the national use rate is at 90.1% – but nearly 27.5 million people still don’t buckle up. Understand the potentially fatal consequences of not wearing a seat belt and learn what you can do to make sure you and your family are properly buckled up every time.
- Buckling up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas not buckling up can result in being totally ejected from the vehicle in a crash, which is almost always deadly.
- Air bags are not enough to protect you; in fact, the force of an air bag can seriously injure or even kill you if you’re not buckled up.
- Improperly wearing a seat belt, such as putting the strap below your arm, puts you and your children at risk in a crash.
The benefits of buckling up are equally clear:
- If you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of:
- Fatal injury by 45% (Kahane, 2015)
- Moderate to critical injury by 50%
- If you buckle up in a light truck, you can reduce your risk of:
- Fatal injury by 60% (Kahane, 2015)
- Moderate to critical injury by 65% (NHTSA, 1984)
The Top 5 Things you Should know about Buckling Up:
- Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.
- Seat belts are the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers. Being buckled up during a crash helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle; being completely ejected from a vehicle is almost always deadly.
- Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them.
- If you don’t wear your seat belt, you could be thrown into a rapidly opening frontal air bag. Such force could injure or even kill you.
- Guidelines to buckle up safely
- The lap belt and shoulder belt are secured across the pelvis and rib cage, which are better able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body.
- Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
- The lap belt rests across your hips, not your stomach.
- NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.
- Fit matters
- Before you buy a new car, check to see that its seat belts are a good fir for you.
- Ask your dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can help you get the best fit.
- If you need a roomie belt, contact your vehicle manufacturer to obtain seat belt extenders.
- If you drive an older or classic car with lap belts only, check with your vehicle manufacturer about how to retrofit your car with today’s safer lap/shoulder belts.
- Seat belt safety for children and pregnant women.
- Find you when your child is ready to use an adult seat belt and learn about seat belt safety when you’re pregnant
For more information on seat belt safety, please visit nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/seat-belts