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AIR BAGS, AUTOMATIC BELTS SAVING LIVES, DOT REPORTS

 AIR BAGS, AUTOMATIC BELTS SAVING LIVES, DOT REPORTS
 WASHINGTON, June 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Transportation Secretary


Andrew H. Card Jr. today released an interim report on the effectiveness of air bags and automatic belts, showing that lives are being saved by this safety equipment.
 Card said that the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study concludes that the risk of fatality in cars equipped with air bags is 23 percent lower than in cars with manual belts at 1983 usage rates. The fatality risk is 16 percent lower in cars equipped with motorized, 2-point belts which have no disconnect feature and 10 percent lower in cars with non-motorized 3- point belts.
 NHTSA said 1983 was used as the base year to measure the effectiveness of automatic protection because it was the year prior to the start of a concerted program to raise belt use. Belt use at that time was 14 percent, and no states had belt use laws. Since then, automatic occupant protection has been phased in; 42 states and the District of Columbia have belt laws; all states have child passenger protection laws; and belt use has climbed to 59 percent or more.
 "The government's occupant protection program combines a nationwide effort to increase belt use and a requirement that all new cars have air bags or automatic seat belts. This combination has been a great success and is a key reason why traffic fatalities today are the lowest in three decades," Card said.
 NHTSA's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, "Occupant Crash Protection," was amended in 1984 to require all new passenger cars sold after Sept. 1, 1989, to be equipped with air bags or automatically-closing seat belts for front-seat occupants. In 1991, NHTSA extended the requirement to light trucks and vans, to be phased in over model years 1995 through 1998.
 "The jury is now in on air bags and automatic belts," Card said. "And the verdict is that this equipment is demonstrating its reliability and outstanding safety performance. It's no wonder that safety is now such a dominant factor in new car sales," Card added.
 "The '208' standard also encouraged states to pass belt use laws. The overwhelming response by state legislatures to pass these laws, with strong support from the automotive industry and consumer groups, shows that a united effort can make a difference for safety," Card said.
 "Automatic protection, state belt use laws and greater voluntary belt use amount to a 'winning combination' that saves lives and reduces injury severity. The combination of an air bag and a lap/shoulder belt offers the best available protection in all kinds of crashes. It is very important for occupants to buckle up the lap/shoulder belt in cars with air bags and to use the manual lap belt in cars with automatic shoulder belts," Card said.
 Copies of the report are available from NHTSA's Office of Public and Consumer Affairs, 202-366-9550.
 -0- 6/25/92
 /CONTACT: Skipp Calvert of Barry McCahill of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 202-366-9550/ CO: U.S. Department of Transportation; National Highway Traffic
 Safety Administration ST: District of Columbia IN: AUT SU: EXE


DC -- DC019 -- 3876 06/25/92 14:53 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jun 25, 1992
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