On October 5, 2006, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Virginia — a non-profit organization focused on reducing injuries and deaths on our roadways — published the results of a new study on the safety benefits of side airbags.

The study’s findings included:

1) side airbags substantially reduce the risk of death;

2) side airbags that protect people’s heads are especially effective;

3) side airbags that protect only the chest and abdomen (but not the head) reduce risks at a significantly lower rate;

4) side airbags protect at a higher rate against deaths from crashes not only with cars but also with the higher-riding vehicles such as SUVs and pickups (occupants’ heads are especially vulnerable in collisions with SUVs or pickups).

5) since 2003 all car models with good ratings in the crash tests have had side airbags, and very few poor performers in the crash tests have had side airbags.

The Institute’s VP for research and an author of the study has stated that:

We found lower fatality risks across the board – among older and younger drivers, male and female drivers, and drivers of both small cars and larger passenger vehicles.

Moral of the story: when you choose a new riding machine, it’s OK to spend some time on ordering color, horsepower and the like, but don’t forget to order air bags “on the side.” It’s the smart, brainy thing to do, and it may be a death-defying act.

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