Study Shows ‘Side’ Air Bags Improve Passenger Safety

June 20, 2006

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that two large sedans with standard side-curtain air bags do a good job of protecting passengers in crashes with sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

The Chevrolet Impala and the Toyota Avalon each received a “good” rating in the Institute’s recent study of eight large cars. “Good” is the top score in the study.

Six other large sedans tested did not fare as well.

Automakers voluntarily will make the safety feature standard on all vehicles by 2009.

The Buick Lucerne and Hyundai Azera, both tested with optional side air bags, received an “acceptable” rating, while the Buick LaCrosse and Chrysler 300 were rated “marginal,” even equipped with the optional side air bag feature.

The Chrysler 300, Ford Five Hundred and Ford Crown Victoria had “poor” ratings when tested without the side-curtain air bags. But last year, the Five Hundred received a gold medal from the institute when tested with side air bags.

Michael Kennedy, former chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council, said most customers are willing to pay $595 for a safety package that includes side-impact air bags.

Kennedy, who runs four Ford dealerships in suburban Philadelphia, told the Detroit Free Press, “For safety features, customers don’t balk at paying extra.”

A Chrysler spokesman said the 300 has performed well in other crash tests, earning a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said 9,700 people died in side-impact crashes in 2004 and that more drivers in passenger cars die in side accidents than in head-on crashes.

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