Airbags Supply Both Good and Bad News

Detroit Free Press - February 11, 2013

Air bags may save lives in car crashes, but increasingly, they’re becoming safety problems themselves. Still, automakers continue to improve on their life-saving ability.

Find out what automakers are working on now.

There’s no debate about air bags’ effectiveness. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that air bags saved 2,788 lives in one sample year. At issue is whether they’ll inflate when they’re supposed to, or whether they’ll cause injuries on their own.

At the same time, automakers are making complex air bag systems. They’re:

• Adding more. Automakers continue to pack them in. The 2013 Dodge Dart has 10. Toyota’s newest RAV4 crossover has eight.

• Finding new places. General Motors has the first front-center air bags in the 2013 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia to keep the driver and front-seat passenger from colliding in a crash. Toyota has the first rear air bag to protect back-seat passengers in a rear-end crash in the tiny Scion iQ.

• Incorporating new technology. Ford’s Lincoln unit is putting inflating seat belts in the rear of its 2013 MKZ sedan and MKT SUV. They put an air bag in a shoulder belt to better distribute forces.

While the advances are sure to save lives and lessen injuries, there’s more that can go wrong.




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