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 NEW YORK, Aug. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Air bags, the cushions which promise automotive-passenger crash protection, have a potentially fatal dark side for children and small adults, according to an article in the September 1993 'Automobile Magazine.'
 "Children are safer in cars today than they have ever been," explained Kevin Clemens, who wrote the story. "But today's hottest safety device, the air bag, presents a deadly danger to small children riding in the front seat."
 Children in safety seats, especially infants in rear facing ones, are in danger from the deploying bag striking the restraint and the deployment force being transferred to its head.
 In tests, the impact on the head of a crash dummy in a rear-facing seat can exceed 300g's; an adult can survive only about 80g's, a child less, wrote Clemens.
 Also at risk are children and small female adults in front seats positioned too close to an air bag.
 "We are not saying air bags are bad; we just hope people are aware of the potential problems and properly restrain their children," Clemens explained. "Safety experts from the major manufacturers agree the safest place for any child is always in the rear seat, properly restrained."
 "Unfortunately, air bags are not the safety panacea consumer groups, the government and some manufacturers might lead you to believe," explained Editorial Director David E. Davis, Jr. "Safety, like all other aspects of driving, demands thoughtful involvement by the driver, who remains the single most important automotive safety device."
 In addition to the air bag expose, the September 'Automotive Magazine' offers a lively mixture of road tests, driving features, columns and information, including a test drive of the 12 most popular cars sold in America as measured by the J.D. Power and Associates Consumer Satisfaction Index; an interview with Alex Trotman, heir apparent to head the Ford Motor Company, and a look at the new, small Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans.
 Founded in 1986, 'Automotive Magazine' has been the fastest growing automotive-enthusiast publication in history, and will deliver a circulation in excess of 575,000 beginning with this October's issue.
 In addition, it is now solidly in third place in the automotive category in terms of annual advertising pages.
 Acclaimed in 1992 by 'AdWeek' as one of the nation's 10 hottest publications, 'Automotive Magazine' is published by the K-III Magazine Corporation, which also produces 'Premiere', 'New York', 'Seventeen' and 'New Woman.'
 The article, in its entirety, follows:
 Air Bags, but...
 The safety cushions can kill children
 Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan --
 Children are safer in cars today than they have ever been. State laws requiring that children ride in safety seats and wear seatbelts, along with systems like Chrysler's ingenious integrated child seats, help keep properly belted children well protected in case of an accident. But today's hottest safety device, the air bag, presents a deadly danger to small children riding in the front seat.
 Although engineers first recognized as early as the mid-1980s that children in safety seats might be at risk from air bags, it wasn't until April of this year that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took the first step toward ordering that rear-facing child seats carry warnings against using them in seats protected by air bags. Many car and seat makers already issue warnings of their own. "The principle concern is the impact (of the air bag) to the surface of the child restraint, which is transmitted to the head of the infant, most likely causing a closed-head injury," said Howard Wilson, specialist in vehicle safety and regulatory affairs for Chrysler.
 Television commercials frequently show air bags deploying in slow motion, the soft cushion billowing out and lightly touching the face of the occupant. In fact, air bags deploy at speeds between 100 and 200 mph in a violent 0.05 second. In crash tests, the air bag's impact on the head of a dummy in a rear-facing child seat can exceed 300 g's. An adult could survive only about 80 g's -- and children less than that, according to data supplied by Kathleen Weber of the University of Michigan Medical School and chair of a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) task force studying air bags and child restraints.
 The tragic irony is that the air bag itself can injure or kill infants in these rear-facing seats even in a minor car crash. A 15-mph impact is enough to set off the air bag and kill a child who might otherwise suffer no injuries if there were no bag, said Weber.
 Manufacturers cannot abandon the rear-facing design because it provides extra head and neck support for infants less than a year old. Whereas forward-facing child seats provide support and protection for larger children, there is little agreement on just how dangerous it is to place your child is one of these seats facing an air bag.
 Safety experts from the SAE, General Motors, Chrysler, and Mercedes- Benz all agree that the safest place for any child is always in the rear seat, properly restrained. GM and Chrysler experts said putting your child in the front seat, facing an air bag, can be safe; Saab and Volvo owner's manuals say definitely not. All the experts strongly recommended moving the seat as far back from the air bag as possible. "Sit back as far as you can," said Ronald Zarowitz, Chrysler's manager of car and truck safety. "Air bags need room to inflate. If you are in that space, you will have significant contact with the air bag."
 Nor does the warning apply only to children. "It also goes for adults; the small female is also at risk," said Bud Mertz, chairman of the SAE Human Simulation and Biomechanics Standards Committee.
 With two million rear-facing infant seats in use and the government well aware of the potential danger, NHTSA is still pressing ahead with plans to require air bags in all vehicles. "They are an effective way of protecting people in frontal crashes -- thousands of lives will be saved," said Tim Hurd, chief of NHTSA media relations. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that up to 1,500 lives a year could be saved by passenger's-side air bags.
 Although the potential for air-bag injuries to children today is fairly low -- less than five percent of the new cars sold last year had passenger's-side air bags -- by the 1998 model year, all new cars will be required to have them. More critically, they will be required for 1999-model trucks, which, like many of today's dual-bagged sports carts, have no back seat to accommodate child seats.
 But by then safety-seat manufacturers are likely to have perfected rear-facing models suitable for use with air bags, predicted Mark Sedlack, product design manager for child-seat manufacturer Century Products Company. "It's going to take a combination of rigid structure and a crushable zone to spread all that energy over time," he said.
 Meanwhile, no estimates are being made on the number of children likely to be injured because their parents don't know about the air bag's danger. NHTSA plans to deal with the problem of rear-facing child seats by requiring warning labels in vehicles and on safety seats, as well as warnings in owner's manuals. The government figures that should save two to four infants' lives a year and prevent more than 400 injuries.
 -- Kevin Clemens
 -0- 8/6/93
 /CONTACT: Michael Geylin of Kermish-Geylin Public Relations, Inc., 212-315-4900, for Automotive Magazine/


LD-MG -- NY006 -- 0191 08/06/93 09:01 EDT
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Date:Aug 6, 1993

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