The government is requiring that all 2013 model-year vehicles come equipped with side air bags. This upgrade has been in consideration since 2004. Side air bags will protect the torso and head from serious injury in the event of an accident. It is said that these measures could save up to 300 lives and prevent over 400 serious injuries each year in accidents where motorists are struck by another vehicle from the side. Side impact crashes were responsible for the deaths of 9,200 people in 2005. This accounts for about 29 percent of motorists killed in passenger vehicles that year.

          The shift in installing side air bags will be gradual until 2013 hits. In 2010, 20 percetn of all passenger vehicles will require side air bags followed by 50 percent in 2011 models, and 75 percent in 2012. There are three types of side air bags that can be installed in these vehicles. Head side air bags are positioned in the roof rail above the side windows to protect an adult’s head during a crash. They come as both curtain and tubular side air bags, though the curtain bags may protect passengers in cars that roll over after being struck. Chest air bags are mounted on the side of the seat or in the door of the vehicle to protect the chest and torso during an accident. The head/chest combination bags are larger bags mounted on the side of the seat.

           The downfall to these safety instruments, like front air bags, is the risk of injury to children seated near them. Children would not be permitted to sit anywhere in the car where a side air bag could go off in case of an accident. Those bags mounted on the roof, however, are said to pose no threat to children since the children’s heads cannot reach them. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted in the passenger’s seat anyway.

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