Air Bags Significantly Lower Auto Death Rates

Front-end crashes in cars with air bags result in a 23 percent lower driver death rate than in cars without them, according to a new study of air bag performance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is financed by the auto insurance industry, looked at crash data from 1985-93, comparing driver death rates in cars equipped with air bags with rates in similar cars without them. Based on more than 7,000 accidents, the analysis found:

A 23 percent lower driver death rate in front or front-angle crashes in air bag-equipped cars compared with cars that lack the devices.

A death-rate reduction of 14 percent in cars with air bags when all types of crashes are considered.

A 30 percent lower death rate in all types of crashes in the largest cars with air bags. But the death-rate reduction for all types of crashes was only 11 percent in midsize cars and 14 percent in small cars.

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