The number of children dying in car accidents from airbag deployment is declining. And beginning Monday, automakers will phase in advanced airbags that activates according to the size of the person sitting in the car.
But, Ellen Engleman, the Chair for the National Transportation Safety Board, says it's still important to remember that children should sit in the back seat.
Even with new car safety technologies, the safest place for children 12 and under will continue to be in a rear seat, properly restrained, according to Engleman.
While air bag deaths are declining, the government says 15 percent of infants and 29 percent of four- to seven-year-olds still ride in the front seat, which isn't safe.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the most common fatal crashes are frontal impacts, accounting for 50 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.
The lives of more than 1,700 children have been saved since 1996 solely because they were sitting in the rear seat, according to a new analysis by the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign.
The analysis found that the movement to the rear seat corresponds with a significant reduction in fatalities among infants and toddlers. Infants experienced a 68 percent reduction in front seat fatalities from 1996 to 2001 and toddlers showed a 52 percent reduction over the same time period.
But for children who are placed on the front seats of cars, Engleman says, the new airbags will be less damaging for children.
Starting Labor Day, September 1, 20 percent of all new motor vehicles sold in the U.S. must be equipped with advanced air bag technologies, and by September 1, 2006 the requirement will apply to all new light trucks and cars.
The new standard results from a Congressional mandate in 1998. Advanced air bag technologies vary, but in their simplest forms suppress or reduce the deployment force of the air bag.
Here are some children safety tips the NTSB recommends parents follow:
- Infants should ride in a rear-facing child safety seat that is correctly installed in a back seat.
- Young children should ride in a back seat in a child safety seat or seat belt that is right for their age and size, and that is used correctly.
- For correct use information, follow your vehicle owner's manual and child safety seat instructions.
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if it is absolutely necessary to transport children in a front seat, place the child in the front seat, securely restrained and sitting in the proper forward-facing position, with the seat pushed back as far as possible. A child in a forward-facing child safety seat with a harness may be the best choice because a child who is in a booster seat or using a regular seat belt can more easily move out of position and be at greater risk of injuries from the air bag.