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Fact Sheet

How Do Air Bags Work?
Air bags provide extra protection for belted occupants. They are designed to help keep your head, neck and chest safe in a front-end crash. Most often, an airbag will deploy when a vehicle hits another vehicle or a solid object.

An air bag is not a soft, billowy pillow. It comes out of the dashboard at up to 200 miles per hour, faster than the blink of an eye. Because of this great force, an air bag can injure those who are too close to it.

Ways to Reduce Air Bag Risk
 Drivers should sit with at least a 10-inch clearance between the center of the steering wheel or dashboard and their chest. The steering wheel should be tilted upward, not straight across from the torso. Passengers in the front seat should double the distance due to the increased size of the passenger airbag.
 Drivers are responsible for making sure that everyone is buckled up.
 Infants in rear-facing child safety seats should never be placed in front of active passenger air bags.
 Children under 13 should always be restrained in a child safety seat or a seat belt in the back seat. Even if there isn't a passenger air bag in the vehicle, the safest place for infants and children is properly secured and buckled up in the back seat.
 Check your vehicle owner's manual and the instructions provided with your child safety seat for correct use information.

Air Bag On-Off Switch
Air bags are supplemental safety devices - they must be used with a seat belt to be most effective. Air bags have been credited with saving thousands of lives and reduce the risk of serious head injuries. In a small percentage of cases, there may be reasons why an air bag should not be used. These situations are addressed by use of an airbag on-off switch.

For more information, visit

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Contact the South Dakota Safety Council at
or phone 605-361-7785 or 1-800-952-5539.