She also cautioned that most of the cars included in the study used what are known as "first generation" airbags, whereas cars today use "second generation" airbags, which deploy with less force. Cars have been equipped with second generation airbags since 1997.
Tim T. Hurd, chief of media relations for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, said that the report has compiled more helpful data.
"[But] it doesn't change the warning we have to put children in the back seat," Hurd said.
According to David P. Ropeik, director of risk communication at the HCRA, the center held off on publicizing the study until Monday for fear it would be overshadowed by the Firestone tire recall in August.
"We wanted more attention for it, so when the Firestone story was grabbing attention we thought the public wouldn't learn as much if we released it then," he said. "We wanted to release it in a way that would get it the most attention."
The airbag study is the kind of work done regularly at the center, Ropeik said.
"We try to put risk into perspective by doing risk analysis, risk-risk tradeoffs and other kinds of analytic review so that we can understand these risks better and make smarter decisions as a society on how to protect ourselves with limited resources," Ropeik said.
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