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U.S.A.:Ford To Install Smart Airbags Safer for Kids

The Auto Channel

WASHINGTON August 27, 2003; Dee-Ann Durbin writing for the AP reported yesterday that safety advocates are praising smart airbags, which turn themselves off or deploy softly if they sense a driver or passenger is too small. But they say it’s still a lot smarter for drivers to put small passengers in the back seat.

Ford is the only one of Detroit's three automakers installing the smart airbag technology in cars; the 2004 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable have it. GM and DaimlerChrysler have the technology on select trucks and SUVs. All vehicles should have the airbags by 2006 in accordance with federal standards.

Automakers, in compliance with new federal standards, will begin phasing in the new airbags next Monday, installing them in 20 percent of new vehicles. The new systems, which have weight sensors in the front seats to detect whether drivers or passengers are too small to withstand the force of an airbag, will be in all new vehicles by Sept. 1, 2006.

Advocates and federal safety officials applauded the change but also issued a warning. “We want to make sure parents are clear: Old airbag, new airbag, no airbag, kids are safer in the back seat properly restrained,” said Ellen Engleman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there have been 231 confirmed deaths due to airbags since 1990, including 144 children.

While airbag deaths have been declining steadily since 1998 as more drivers put children in the back seat, a NHTSA survey last year found that 15 percent of infants, 10 percent of 1- to 3-year-olds and 29 percent of 4- to 7-year-olds were still riding in the front seat.

The Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign estimates that the lives of 1,700 children have been saved since 1996 because they were sitting in the back seat. The group’s survey was based on accident data from 1996 through 2001.

Automakers agree that the advanced airbags are not the answer for small children.

Automakers were allowed to meet the regulations in several ways. They could install airbags that would not deploy if sensors showed the occupant was too small, or they could install airbags that would deploy at a lower speed if the occupant was too small.

NHTSA estimated it would cost about $127 per vehicle for the new airbag technology, but said it could save automakers money in the long run because they wouldn’t have to replace airbags that deploy unnecessarily.

NHTSA announced the new rule in May 2000 after Congress required it in 1998.

So far, Ford Motor Co. is the only one of Detroit’s three automakers installing the technology in cars. The 2004 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable have advanced airbags, said Jim Boland, manager of advanced safety for Ford.

General Motors Corp. has advanced airbags in its 2003 and 2004 pickups and sport-utility vehicles, spokesman Jim Schell said. DaimlerChrysler AG is installing the technology in the 2004 Jeep Liberty and Dodge Durango, spokeswoman Angela Ford said.

In other news Tuesday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released results of a study that found that side airbags that include head protection systems can reduce the risk of dying in side-impact collisions by half.

The results suggest that side airbags, a relatively recent technology, could be as important to safety as seat belts, the insurance industry group said.

“Hopefully, what this will mean is that more manufacturers will offer them as standard equipment,” said Susan Ferguson, senior vice president for research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a leading auto safety research group that is financed by insurers.

The study is the first major look at how side airbags, which debuted in the late 1990s, are performing. Side-impact collisions lead to more than 9,000 deaths each year.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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