Seat belts offer more protection than air bags

iver air bags offer relatively little benefit in road vehicle crashes compared with seat belts, finds a study in this week’s BMJ.

Researchers in the United States identified all passenger vehicles that crashed during 1990-2000 in which the driver or passenger, or both, died. A sample of 51,031 driver-passenger pairs was analysed to estimate the association of driver air bags with driver fatality.

Having an air bag was associated with an 8% reduction in the risk of death, whether the driver was belted or not. The reduction in risk was greater for women (12%) than for men (6%).

However, seat belts provided much greater protection, with seat belt use reducing the risk of death by 65%. Using a seat belt and having an air bag reduced the risk of death by 68%.

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