Auto and Road User Journal
February 1, 1997|
(U.S. and Canada)
Fax: (360) 335-6402
President Clinton Unveils New Universal Child Seat Attachment System to Make Installation Safer, Easier
NHTSA Issues Final Rule; Proposes Two Changes to Reduce Air Bag Dangers
Lime-Yellow Fire Trucks Safer Than Red
Coping with Driver Fatigue
Maryland Man Amazed
Drivers Voice Support for Zero Tolerance, Graduated Licensing
Insurance Institute Publishes Vehicle Death Rate Comparisons for 1990-94
Improving Highways for Older Driver Use
Insurance Institute Video Describes Steps to Airbag Safety
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NHTSA Announces Comprehensive Plan to Improve Air Bag Technology and Reduce Air Bag Dangers: DOT Press Release, November 22, 1996The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced a comprehensive approach to preserve the important safety benefit of air bags while minimizing their danger to children and at-risk adults.
The agency announced its approach centers on accelerating the development of "smart air bag" technology for future vehicles with the intent of having the systems available in fall 1998 for 1999 models. More immediate measures include adoption of enhanced warning labels, depowering of air bags and continuing to allow the use of cut-off switches in vehicles without a rear seat to protect children.
NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D., said, "The safety of the motoring public is our highest priority. Air bags are working well, but need to be improved to enhance the safety of children and small stature adults. These comprehensive measures will maintain the safety benefits of air bags, decrease their potential hazard to children and at-risk adults, and provide consumers with important safety information.
Administrator Martinez added that while these steps will enhance the safety of vehicle occupants in the interim, the effort can only be fully completed with the development and use of "smart" air bag technology.
The other intermediate safety measures are:
"The most important and immediate part of our strategy is that children age 12 and under should always ride in the back seat, buckled up. Regulatory actions will make tomorrow's air bags safer for children, but too many are at risk in the interim if parents do not insist their children ride in the back seat," Dr. Martinez said.
"Overall, air bags are working well and are responsible for an 11 percent reduction in driver fatalities in passenger cars, including a 30 percent reduction in fatalities in head-on crashes. They are credited with saving more than 1,500 lives since 1986 when they began appearing in the U.S. fleet," Dr. Martinez said.
Regarding our proposal to allow air bags to be disconnected, we expect that very few will need to take this extreme action, and those who do will be made aware of the risks involved, Dr. Martinez said. You can greatly reduce the risk of air bag injury by being buckled and back from the air bag.
NHTSA has aggressively issued consumer advisories and worked with the news media, the highway safety community, auto and insurance industries, and the medical community to increase public awareness of both the problem and the immediate solution -- placing children in the back seat, buckled up.
In August 1996, the agency proposed changes to the federal air bag requirement to encourage the introduction of "smart" air bag systems and to provide relief to owners of existing vehicles equipped with air bags.
The Congress in 1991 directed NHTSA to amend the standard to require air bags for all new cars manufactured after September 1997 and for light trucks the following year. Responding to market demand, manufacturers exceeded that timetable and today virtually all new cars and trucks offer dual air bags.
Consumers who have questions or concerns about air bags should contact the agency's toll-free Auto Safety Hotline at (800) 424-9393. For up-to-date information on air bag issues, contact NHTSA's World Wide Web site at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
Click here to read Administrator Martinez's remarks on this announcement.