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Less Powerful Airbags Reduce Injuries, Death, Without Compromising Safety

April 8, 2003

The less powerful air bags that car makers began installing five years ago have decreased the number of serious, air bag-related injuries and deaths without compromising safety, according to preliminary results of a study by the vehicle manufacturers and safety experts reported in the Detroit Free Press (DFP).Robert Strassburger, vice president of the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told the Detroit Free Press that the data so far validate the vehicle makers' decision to install less powerful air bags after a series of deaths and injuries were blamed on air-bag deployments.Strassburger is one of a group of 13 vehicle and safety experts from the motor industry, universities and government that is overseeing the three-year, $5-million air bag study, which is being paid for by the alliance, the DFP said, adding that Apr. 4 was the first day group members saw preliminary data from the study, which began in 2002.According to the newspaper, Strassburger said short women and children, who had been most at risk with the old air bags, were far less likely to suffer from serious injury or death due to head, neck or chest injuries if they had an air bag installed in 1998 or later.Researchers are seeing more injuries to the lower extremities, including the legs and feet. Those injuries also are more severe than injuries seen before 1998. But researchers aren't sure if that is due to air bags or vehicle design changes, Strassburger told the DFP, adding that the trend is a positive one, overall."You rarely die of a broken leg or a broken ankle," Strassburger told the Detroit Free Press. "As with anything and everything in regulation and engineering, it's a trade-off. This is a trade-off that, literally, we can live with."
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