Air bags, seat belts and other safety features save lives

News National Highway Traffic Safety Administration January 20, 2005
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Nearly 329,000 lives have been saved by vehicle safety technologies since 1960, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced. A new study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates of all the safety features added since 1960, one – safety belts – account for over half of all lives saved.

The study also says government-mandated safety standards have added about $839 in costs and 125 pounds to the average passenger car when compared to pre-1968 vehicles.

"The department has worked diligently to reduce highway deaths," Mineta said. "Thousands of our friends, neighbors and family members are alive today because of these safety innovations."

According to the study, the number of lives saved annually increased steadily from 115 per year in 1960 to nearly 25,000 per year in 2002.

"These reports showcase the achievements of NHTSA and the automotive industry," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, MD. "Vehicle safety technology is truly a lifesaver, especially the simple safety belt."

The study examined a myriad of safety features, including braking improvements, safety belts, air bags, energy-absorbing steering columns, child safety seats, improved roof strength and side impact protection, shatter-resistant windshields and instrument panel upgrades. It did not evaluate relatively new technologies like side air bags and electronic stability control systems.

Assessing the costs, NHTSA estimated that safety technologies cost about $544,000 for every life saved. They added about the same cost to a new vehicle as popular options like CD players, sun roofs, leather seats or custom wheels.

The complete reports can be found at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/regrev/evaluate/.

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