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Side-Impact Air Bags: Do They Save Lives?

Aired December 14, 2000 - 1:40 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Side-impact air bags can cost up to $500 as optional equipment. And some drivers wonder if they're effective at preventing serious head injuries. Well, a new round of crash tests is answering that question with a resounding yes, as CNN Detroit bureau chief Ed Garsten reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GARSTEN, CNN DETROIT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): A typical side-impact collision simulated at a test lab: Lucky for the dummy in the Volvo S80, the car was equipped with a side-impact air bag. Here's what happened when the test, performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, was run with the air bag deactivated.

BRIAN O'NEILL, PRESIDENT, IIHS: The test dummy in the rear seat sustained forces that would have been fatal for a human. In a parallel test with the curtain, the occupants, or the dummy occupants, were protected.

GARSTEN: To further test the effectiveness of the side-impact air bags, the institute crashed the Volvo and a BMW X5 sport utility vehicle into a rigid pole at 18 miles an hour.

O'NEILL: There is major penetration into the driver space. But the forces recorded on the dummy indicate that this kind of crash would be survivable. And that's largely because the inflatable curtain kept the forces on the dummy's head low.

GARSTEN: While both the Volvo and the BMW are high-end vehicles, air bags designed to provide head protection are now available as standard or optional equipment on more than 80 vehicles at all price ranges.

(on camera): The Insurance Institute says at least half the 10,000 fatal injuries in side-impact crashes each year involve trauma to the head, and that head protection may save many of those lives. And that's why it's calling these air bags an important innovation.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Detroit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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