Objective: Analyses were conducted to estimate the effectiveness of airbags in reducing driver fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.
Design: Airbag effectiveness was estimated by (1) comparing driver fatalities in frontal crashes with driver fatalities in nonfrontal crashes for cars with airbags and manual belts and cars with manual belts only, and (2) by comparing driver fatal crash rates per 10,000 registered vehicles for cars with airbags and manual belts and cars with manual belts only.
Materials and methods: Fatal Accident Reporting System data for 1985-1993 model year cars were compared.
Measurements and main results: The two methods yielded similar results. In the analysis based on location of damage, driver fatalities in airbag equipped cars were reduced by 24 percent in frontal crashes relative to comparable cars with manual belts only and by 16 percent in all crashes. In the analyses based on vehicle registration data, fatality rates for frontal crashes were reduced by 23 percent for cars with airbags and manual belts compared with the same cars equipped with manual belts only and by 16 percent for all crashes.
Conclusions: Various estimates of airbag effectiveness are beginning to yield consistent results. These analyses confirm that driver airbags are reducing fatalities in the frontal crashes for which they are designed.