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Where your motoring questions are answered
My husband and I have been discussing the safety of airbags. He says they can blow up and harm our children at the slightest impact. I am not so sure.
Helena Yuen, Tai Po
Foot Down raised this question with the vice-chairman of the Institute of Advanced Motorists in Hong Kong, Dr Mong Hoi-keung. He makes the following points:
1. Airbags carry the prefix SRS, which stipulates that the airbag is a supplemental restraint system and that the seat belts are the proper mechanism to protect occupants.
2. Airbags need to be activated in a very short time and therefore explosive devices are used to effect their inflation. The velocity of such an inflation can exceed 160km/h.
3. The inflation of airbags is designed to work without anything in its explosion path. If the front-seat occupant is unrestrained or a small child is not captured by the belt, the young passenger's head could be right in the path of the explosion of the airbag. Drastic injuries therefore might result.
4. Passengers will enjoy better protection in the back seat of cars (but they again need to be belted).
5. All in all, riding in a fast moving car is dangerous to start with and we should therefore respect driving and observe all safety rules and regulations.
Foot Down also learned from the Internet that the Harvard Centre for Risk Analysis found from 28,000 fatal crashes between 1990 and 1998, nearly one-third of drivers with child passengers allowed them to ride in the front seat, despite warnings it can put them at risk of airbag injuries. However, the Harvard researchers concluded that the proportion of vehicles carrying children 12 and under in the front seat had declined in that period from 42 per cent to 31 per cent. They also revealed that when a child was the only passenger, he or she was five times more likely to be seated in the front than a youngster riding with other passengers. It also concluded that women were four times more likely than men to seat children aged six and under in the front.
The Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.hwysafety.org) says children aged 12 and under could reduce their risk of being killed in a car accident by 36 per cent if they sit in a rear seat instead of the front. The institute recommends: 'Starting with a baby's first trip, put the newborn in the safest place - a rear-facing restraint in the centre of the back seat.' Infants 'in rear-facing restraints and unbelted or unrestrained children in the front seats of vehicles with passenger airbags are at the greatest risk', it adds.
Finally, Chinese-reading prospective members can contact the Institute Of Advanced Motorists in Hong Kong on www.iamhk.org/intro.htm, but its English-language pages are under construction and promise to discuss advanced driving, training, tests and activities. Alternatively, you can call the body on 2718 2299.
Do you think Hong Kong drivers should do more to protect their young passengers? Tell Foot Down your views or pose other motoring-related questions on fax 2562 2485 or e-mail email@example.com