Manufacturers and suppliers of automotive air bags are developing future side impact air bags that will meet or exceed new test procedures intended to continue the safe operation of these latest safety devices that are rapidly becoming available in the nation's passenger vehicles. The goal is to minimize the risk of serious injury even to an out-of-position occupants when a side air bag deploys.

Automotive Occupant Restraint Council (AORC) President George Kirchoff today said, "We are pleased to be an active member of the Side Impact Out-of- Position Technical Working Group (TWG) that met for a year to develop side air bag test procedures, that when used to develop side air bags, will minimize risk of significant injury when they deploy. AORC and its member companies fully support the comprehensive voluntary procedures."

The Technical Working Group, comprised of motor vehicle crash safety and biomechanic experts, is sponsored by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Automotive Occupant Restraints Council and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Adhering to the test procedures manufacturers can reduce the already small risk of injury to vehicle occupants who may be out-of-position when a side air bag deploys during a crash.

Side impact air bags provide an inflatable cushion between vehicle occupants and the vehicle's side structure that is pushed into the occupant during a crash with another vehicle or a stationary object such as a tree or pole.

Side impact bags have been extremely safe. According the AORC no deaths or serious injuries have occurred from side air bags. The new test procedures are designed to minimize the potential for risks from side air bag inflation.

"The potential life saving benefits of side impact air bags are enormous. In 1998 alone, side impact crashes claimed nearly 9,500 lives," said Kirchoff.

"The work product produced by the TWG is significant and comprehensive, however, this group of industry experts will monitor side air bag data and reconvene in one year to analyze the new field data and determine if there is need to modify the test procedures."

The Automotive Occupant Restraints Council is an international nonprofit organization representing 50 member companies who develop, manufacture and provide automotive occupant restraints systems, their components and automotive seating.