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Survey Finds Widespread Misuse of Airbag On-Off Switches in Pickups

February 11, 2004

Airbag switches are often misused, needlessly endangering children and depriving adults of life-saving protection, a NHTSA survey has found.More than 12 million pickup trucks and a smaller number of passenger cars and cargo vans without rear seats are equipped with airbag on-off switches. Proper use of the switches requires drivers to turn the airbag off for children 12 and under but activate it when the passenger seat is occupied by an adult.The NHTSA survey found: * Drivers with children in rear-facing child safety seats achieved the highest rate of correct use of the air bag switch - 86 percent. * On average, 48 percent of air bag switches were incorrectly left on for child passengers, aged 12 and under. * Air bag switches were incorrectly turned off for 17 percent of teenage and adult passengers. On-off switches were first permitted in limited circumstances in May 1995 as an interim device pending the development of advanced air bag systems. The use of on-off switches will be eliminated as advanced air bag systems are put into vehicles. This phase-out will be complete by the 2013-model year.
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