The presence of front and side airbag systems can be linked to fewer significant injuries, resulting in lower claim costs. A new study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) examined the type of passenger restraint system found in insured vehicles in a sample of 2007 closed auto injury insurance claims, and looked at differences in the extent of injuries and subsequent claim payments.

Claimants injured in vehicles with front and side airbags were less likely than those in vehicles with seatbelts only, or seatbelts and front airbags only, to have serious injuries, receive hospital treatment or experience a period of disability or fatality. As a result, airbag systems were associated with markedly lower injury claim costs.

The average personal injury protection payment for claims from vehicles with seatbelts but without airbags was $6,994, higher than the $5,308 average for vehicles with front airbags, and higher than the $4,457 average for vehicles with both front and side airbags.

The report found a rapid transition from seatbelts only to front and side airbag systems as model years advanced within the sample of vehicles involved in 2007 personal injury protection claims. Among vehicles from model year 1990, 80% had seatbelts but no airbags, and 20% had front airbags. Among 1998 model year vehicles, all vehicles were equipped with airbags—89% had front airbags only, and 11% also included side airbags. Among vehicles from model year 2007, 82% had front and side airbags.

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