| It has been more than 15 years since the first air-bag devices (hereafter "air bags") were installed
in cars. Air bags are safety devices that presuppose the use of seat belts. In recent years, nearly all cars are equipped with a driver's-side air bag, and more than half also have a passenger-side air bag. In this issue,
we show how many car occupants have been saved from injury, and how many more would have been
killed or seriously injured if it were not for air bags. Some people, however, still refuse to wear seat belts
that are essential for air bags to function properly. The types of injuries these people may suffer are also
shown here, to emphasize the importance of wearing seat belts while in a car.
| Air bags are a device for protecting car occupants in the event of a frontal collision and presuppose that
seat belts are worn.
This analysis confirms that air bags reduce injuries to drivers and passengers in a car crash.
Of accidents that took place during the nine years from 1995 to 2003, those fatally or seriously injured
totaled 405 people in cars equipped with air bags. It is estimated that the number would have increased by
85 people to 490 if air bags had not been present (Table 2).
Even though a considerable number of cars involved in accidents were categorized as "not confirmed"
whether they had air bags or not, an estimated figure indicated that fatally or seriously injured drivers
would have increased by 245 people from 1,389 to 1,634 if no air bags had been installed.
Hence, the introduction of air bags has reduced the number of serious injuries.
The number of car occupants not wearing seat belts has been declining in recent years,
but the ratio of those not wearing them is still large among those killed or seriously injured in auto accidents.
This cannot be ignored. Although air bags appear to have increased the ratio of those suffering no injury in accidents, the noticeable number of fatally or seriously injured suggests that drivers and passengers
not wearing seat belts have suffered serious injury to the chest and abdomen.
Seat belts are estimated to reduce fatal and serious injuries by 50%,
as indicated by ITARDA INFORMATION No. 42 (issued in March, 2003).
Seat belts reduce fatal and serious injuries more effectively than air bags do.
Seat belts alone can protect car occupants not only in frontal collisions but also in side and rear collisions,
flip-overs, and other types of accidents.
Therefore, when you get into a car, immediately fasten the seat belt, whether you are the driver or
a passenger, and then urge the other occupants to do likewise.
Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis (ITARDA)