Saturday, June 8, 2019

It Is Past Time to Rethink Passenger-Side Airbags

It is easy to forget about a sleeping child in the back seat.
It has happened yet again. This time near Wichita. From KWCH TV.

According to Butler County sheriff's deputies, a 3-month-old girl is dead after the baby's mother accidentally left the child in a vehicle.
It happened in a rural part of the county the county off of SW 160th
Deputies say the girl's mother was drowsy after arriving back to her home and went inside to take a nap.
After realizing she left the baby behind, deputies say the mother rushed back out to the vehicle and found the child unresponsive and not breathing. Deputies say the mom brought the child inside the home and immediately called 911.
When my children were growing up, their car seats were in the front passenger seat. I had, between the three of them, a hundred great conversations or, when they were infants, Dad being the "tour guide" as to what their little eyes were seeing.

So, why isn't it the case that parents can put their kids in the front seat now? It isn't because children, properly belted into an approved car seat, are significantly less safe in the front seat based on what I read. It is because Congress mandated air-bags for the front passenger seat. 

Let me be clear: Driver's side airbags are great. I am also 100% in favor of side curtain air bags. But, even when passenger airbag advocates write about them they always seem to have to combine the passenger airbag statistics with side curtain airbags to get the numbers to come out right. Example, here.

The article also says,

Ten years ago, about 100 children were still being killed each year by sitting in the front seat of cars with passenger airbags. 

Yes. Passenger airbags kill. They frequently injure (the article does not tell us how many children were killed in more recent years). Worse, it does not tell the reader that most of the 52 children that died in hot cars last year died because they were stuck in back seat -- out of sight and out of mind. 

The science is far from convincing that the passenger airbags (omitting side curtain airbags) are worth the cost, in dollars and likely injury, to a properly belted passenger, adult or child. Given their extra cost, unless someone can come up with much more convincing science than what currently seems available, we need to make passenger air bags optional. Especially, when one considers the intangible cost to parent-child bonding.

If I am wrong, show me convincing current science that straight-up shows passenger airbags are a plus. I am open-minded. Until then, my position is to make them optional.

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