NHTSA - People Saving PeopleSafety Fact Sheet


Crash Statistics (1996)
People killed: 41,907 People injured: 3.5 million
Passenger vehicle occupants killed: 32,317 Children age 15 and under killed: 3,289
Annual cost of motor vehicle crashes : $150.5 billion (1994 number, latest available)


Estimated Air Bag Benefits (calculated as of 11/1/97)
Drivers saved: 2,288 Calculating lives saved is done with a mathematical analysis of the real-world fatality experience of vehicles with air bags compared with vehicles without air bags. These are called double-pair comparison studies, and are widely recognized as the most accurate method of statistical analysis.
Passengers saved: 332
Total: 2,620 (733 belted, 1,887 unbelted)
Injury prevention The combination of seat belts and air bags is 75 percent effective in preventing serious head injuries and 66 percent effective in preventing serious chest injuries.
Deployments 1.8 million air bags deployed from late 1980s to November 1, 1997:
  • 1.6 million driver-side deployments
  • 226,000 passenger-side deployments
Number of vehicles with air bags (as of 11/1/97) 46.6 million cars (about 38 percent of cars on the road)
20.5 million light trucks (about 29 percent of light trucks)
67.1 million total


Air Bag Deaths (as of 11/1/97)
Children in rear-facing child seats: 12 Children in rear-facing child seats should never be placed in the front seat of an air bag-equipped vehicle because their heads are too close to the air bag cover.
Children not in rear-facing child seats: 37 (three restrained, but not properly) Children 12 years old and younger should be in appropriate restraints and ride in the back seat. This is recommended because children can easily place themselves in danger by not wearing their seat belts properly or leaning forward unexpectedly. Also, the back seat always has been the safest place to ride in a vehicle, with or without air bags.
Adult drivers: 35 (11 properly restrained) Just about everyone -- including short women and older people -- can preserve the benefits of air bags, while reducing or eliminating the risks, by buckling their seat belts and keeping at least a 10-inch distance between the air bag cover and their breastbone.
Adult passengers: 3 (one restrained) Proximity to the air bag has been the issue in nearly every death.
Total: 87


Seat Belt Usage
U.S. rate based on state surveys: 68 percent
Children under 5 in restraints: 61.2 percent
Buckle Up America Campaign goals for seat belt usage: 85 percent by 2000
Human benefit of meeting the goal: 4,194 lives saved and 102,518 injuries prevented
Cost savings from meeting the goal: $6.7 billion per year
The seat belt usage rate in the United States lags far behind most industrialized countries. For example, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden have usage rates of 90 percent or better.


Air Bag Effectiveness (head-on crashes)
Car drivers: 30 percent fatality reduction
Car Passengers: 27 percent fatality reduction
Light truck drivers: 27 percent fatality reduction
No estimate for light truck passengers because there are too few passenger air bags in those vehicles to have statistically valid experience.


Seat Belt Effectiveness
Preventing deaths in cars: 45 percent effective
Preventing serious injuries in cars: 50 percent effective
Preventing deaths in light trucks: 60 percent effective
Preventing serious injuries in light trucks: 65 percent effective
Annual lives saved: 10,000