Los Angeles - Citing the potential benefits of saving more than 300 lives and hundreds of serious injuries each year, Farmers Insurance Group Inc. announced its support of the new Federal motor vehicle safety standard #214 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which requires automakers to conduct new side-impact crash tests.  "Farmers fully supports this effort as a means to protect our customers," noted Kevin Mabe, economist for Los Angeles-based personal lines carrier Farmers. Mabe explained that the standard mandates a new crash test for automakers that mimics a 20-mph impact at a 75-degree angle. Additionally, NHTSA has introduced guidelines for automakers to provide head protection for rear seat passengers. Vehicles under 8,500 pounds must provide safety measures to comply with the test by late 2012. Heavier vehicles, from 8,500 to 10,000 pounds, have an additional year to fully meet regulations.  
"The NHTSA does not specifically mandate a particular safety device to comply with the new standard, but automakers, in addition to the NHTSA, interpret the regulation as an implicit endorsement of side air bags," Mabe added.  Automakers' efforts to install side airbags across their vehicle fleets had begun as early as late 2003, even before an original NHTSA proposal in 2004 that called for side airbag guidelines.

"Both the NHTSA and automakers recognize the safety benefit of such measures," Mabe said. "In our own study released earlier this year, Farmers shows that air bags of all types reduce the odds of a driver fatality by nearly 10%. Coupled with seat belt use, the odds plummet by nearly 75%."  Mabe also expects a dampening effect on both the frequency and severity of bodily injury claims because of the new measure. "We've quantified the effects of safety devices on our loss trends," he said. "Aside from protecting our customers' lives, increased use of safety devices lowers the probability for injury claims."  Source: Farmers Group Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Zurich Financial Services.   

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