Car Safety Update

-- from January/February 1998 Newsletter


To preserve the lifesaving benefits of air bags and minimize their risks, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has changed its policy: People fitting specific profiles that put them at risk of injury from air bags may now install a switch to temporarily deactivate them. Who should consider such a dramatic step? According to the DOT, very few people actually need the on-off switch. Air bags are safe for the vast majority of people, who can virtually eliminate the risk by following basic safety rules: Never place a rear-facing baby seat in the front; always buckle up; keep about 10 inches between breastbone and airbag; and transport kids under the age of 13 in the back seat properly restrained. However, a small group of people are at risk of injury from air bags and should consider installing the on-off switch. People eligible for the on-off switches are:

  1. Those who cannot avoid placing rear-facing infant seats in the front seat (because their vehicle has no rear seat or the rear seat is too small to accommodate a car seat.
  2. Those who have a medical condition that places them at a specific risk of injury from a deploying air bag.
  3. Those who cannot adjust their seat position to keep approximately 10 inches away from the air bag.
  4. Those who cannot avoid situations such as the need to carpool or transport a large family -- that require a child under 13 to ride in the front.

To obtain the cutoff switch, you must fill out a request form stating your eligibility and get written authorization from the DOT, at which point an auto service center can install the switch.


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