Kids Go In the Back
When you purchase a new car in the future, chances are it will come
equipped with “smart” air bags. These advanced air bags
are able to identify when the driver or passenger is too small, and
adjust for safety. This means kids can go in the front seat, right?
Wrong. Safety experts still maintain children belong in the back seat
of a car, properly restrained.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
since 1990 air bags have caused 231 deaths, including 144 children. The
force of air bag deployment is simply too much for small passengers to
endure. Partly for this reason, safety experts have advocated for seating
children in the back seat of the car. Between 1996 and 2001, the lives
of 1,700 children have been saved because they were sitting in the back
seat, according to estimates from the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign.
Despite the call for safety, a recent NHTSA survey found 15% of infants,
10% of one- to three-year-olds, and 29% of four- to seven-year-olds still
ride in the front seat.
To meet new federal safety standards, automakers are required to install
the smart air bag systems in all new cars by September 1, 2006. A few
automakers have already begun to install the advanced air bags in some
of their new cars, including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., and
DaimlerChrysler AG. The new air bag systems involve weight sensors in
the front seats to detect the size of the driver or passenger. If the
passenger is too small, the air bag must either automatically turn off
or deploy at a slower rate.
While the smart air bags are a step in the right direction for air bag
safety and provide a safety net, they are not intended as the primary means
for keeping children safe in the event of an accident. Regardless of the
type of air bag system in a car, children should still ride in the back
May 2004 Update
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