Friday, May 7, 2010

Side Air Bags and Your Kids - What You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe

SIDE AIR BAGS: THE BASICS

There are three main types of Side Air Bags (SABs)
  1. Head SABs are usually mounted in the roof rail above the side windows and are designed to help protect the head in a side-impact crash. There are two types of head SABs: curtain SABs and tubular SABs. Curtain airbags drop down like a curtain to cover the windows, which means they can also protect passengers from flying glass when the windows break in a crash.
  2. Chest (torso) SABs are mounted in the side of the seat back or in the door and are designed to help protect the chest in a serious side-impact crash.
  3. Head/chest combination ("combo") SABs are usually mounted in the side of the seat and are typically larger than chest (torso) SABs. Combo SABs are designed to help protect both the head and chest of an adult - they are usually found only for the front seats.
SIDE AIR BAGS: HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF MY VEHICLE HAS THEM?
Buying a new vehicle? Make sure the vehicle you buy has SABs - ideally ones that offer head protection for the front AND back seat passengers. Visit this website from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to learn which vehicles offer side airbags. When you find a vehicle you are interested in, click on the "view details" button to learn about which type of side airbags are featured in that vehicle.

SIDE AIR BAGS: ARE THEY EFFECTIVE?
YES!!! A study showed that SABs with head protection reduced the risk of death by 37% for drivers in cars and 52% for drivers in SUVs.

SIDE AIR BAGS: ARE THEY SAFE FOR KIDS?
YES!!! As of 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has investigated over 1,500 crashes where SABs deployed. Sixty of the crashes involved children (ages 13 and under). NHTSA has reported only one child who has been injured by a side airbag; a 3-year old sitting unrestrained in the front seat (of course you wouldn't let your 3-yr-old ride in the front seat, let alone unrestrained!) who sustained minor facial skin lacerations from the side airbag cover. No children are known to have been seriously or fatally injured by a side airbag. A recent study of children in side-impact crashes found no increased risk of injury to children age 15 and younger associated with side airbag deployment. NHTSA continues to closely monitor real-world SAB deployments involving both children and adults.

SIDE AIR BAGS: CAN I INSTALL MY CHILD'S CAR SEAT NEXT TO A SIDE AIR BAG?  
If your vehicle has side airbags for the rear seats, please read the owners manual to your vehicle AND your child's car seat to make sure that both approve of the use of a car seat next to a side airbag.  Most car seat manufacturers defer to the vehicle manufacturer regarding whether the seat can/can not be placed next to the side airbag.  Below are excerpts from the car seat manufacturers instruction manuals regarding their position on placing a car seat next to a side airbag.

BABY TREND
  • Seating positions with Active Air Bags must be avoided.
  • (Note: There is no mention in the manual about side airbags, or the distinction between front and side airbags.  Until we can clarify further, assume that side airbags are included under the category of active air bags.)
BRITAX
  • When using in a vehicle with air bags, refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for child seat installation instructions and precautions. 
CHICCO
  • Refer to vehicle owner’s manual before installing this restraint in a seating position with side airbags.
DOREL
  • Check the vehicle owner’s manual for more information about air bag/child restraint use.
  • (Note: There is no mention in the manual about side airbags)
EVENFLO
If the rear seat of your vehicle is equipped with side air bags:
  • Vehicles built prior to the 2002 model year: 
    • DO NOT use this restraint in a vehicle seating position equipped with a side air bag unless authorized by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Model year 2002 and newer vehicles:
    • Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual before placing this restraint in a seating position equipped with a side air bag. DO NOT place any objects between the restraint and the side air bag, as an expanding air bag may cause the items to strike your child.
GRACO
  • For vehicles with air bags, refer to vehicle owner’s manual for child restraint installation information.
ORBIT
  • Check your vehicle owner’s manual regarding air bag compatibility with child restraints.
PEG PEREGO
  • Never use in a vehicle seat with an active air bag. Read your vehicle manual for instructions on how to turn off the air bag. 
  • If your vehicle has air bags, do not install this car seat on a seat with air bags. Death or serious injuries can occur if an air bag hits the unit (read your vehicle owner’s manual for instructions on where to install an infant car seat in your vehicle).
  • If your vehicle has front or rear side air bags you should refer to your vehicle owner’s manual.
  • (Note: Until we can clarify further, assume that side airbags are included under the category of active air bags.)
SUNSHINE KIDS
  • (Note: There is no mention in the manual about side airbags)

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