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Air Bags and Child Passenger Safety

Frontal air bags are designed to offer additional protection to adult front seat passengers in the event of a frontal crash. They are very effective at reducing the risk of fatal and serious injuries for adults when used in conjunction with seat belts. The danger of frontal air bags to children has been well publicized. There are documented cases of both rear-facing infants and forward-facing children being severely injured or killed by deploying air bags.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that all children 12 years of age and younger ride in the back seat. The back seat is considered a safer location in the vast majority of crashes. This is true whether or not a vehicle has a passenger-side air bag.

Side impact air bags are a feature in some vehicles and are designed to provide adults with needed protection in the deadliest of all crashes, side impact crashes. To be most effective, it is important that the air bag has torso and head protection. Torso protection alone will not protect the head from the vehicle’s interior or the encroaching hood of a large truck or SUV.

According to the National Standardized Child Passenger Safety Training Program, “There are no studies right now that indicate a child properly restrained in a child restraint is at risk from current side-impact or curtain-style air bags, but unrestrained and out-of-position children could be injured.”

Air Bag On-Off Switches

Most people do not need on-off switches for their air bags. However in rare circumstances, NHTSA will grant consumers permission to have an on-off switch installed for their air bags. If you are interested in learning more, you must read an informational brochure, “Air Bags & On-Off Switches: Information for an Informed Decision,” and send a completed request form to NHTSA. The brochure and separate request form are available from the Auto Safety Hotline (1-888-DASH-2DOT) or