According to a study published in the Journal of American College of Surgeons, the use of airbags combined with seatbelts considerably reduces injuries to the brain, face, spine and chest during motor vehicle collisions.  As reported by the Washington Post, the study also shows that simultaneous airbag and seatbelt use leads to lower in-hospital death rates and injury severity.

Injury is the leading cause of death among persons age 45 and younger, and motor vehicle collisions are the most frequent cause of injury.  The original airbag, which became widely available in the 1980s, was associated with injury and death, particularly in young children and smaller drivers.  In response to evidence showing that the original airbags increased the risk of injury due to deployment at a high velocity, depowered, or second-generation airbags were mandated in all U.S. automobiles in 1998.  This groundbreaking study is the first to evaluate the potential impact of the use of airbags on a Level 1 trauma center.

The most important statistic reflected in the study was that the in-hospital death rate was considerably higher for unrestrained patients (6.8 percent), compared with 4.6 percent among airbag-only patients, 3.4 percent in the seatbelt-only category, and 3.8 percent in the airbag and seatbelt population.  Researchers indicated that airbags were also associated with fewer days in the intensive care unit (2.8 days compared with 3.7 days for unrestrained patients) and fewer total hospital days (7.1 days compared with 8.6 days for unrestrained patients).  Predictably, the largest reduction in hospital days was seen in patients using both airbags and seatbelts (2.0 days in the intensive care unit and 6.4 total hospital days).

For more about the proper use of airbags and seatbelts, see The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration