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Another look at Meyer and Finney’s “Who Wants Airbags?”

Farmer, Charles M.
Chance
Fall 2006

A recently published study by Mary Meyer and Tremika Finney reached the conclusion that front airbags in automobiles “do more harm than good.” The authors used a nationally representative sample of police-reported crashes in the United States to show that, after accounting for crash severity, front-seat occupants in vehicles with airbags had higher fatality rates than those in vehicles without airbags. This result was surprising, not only because airbags were designed specifically to save lives, but also because a number of other studies have reported that airbags significantly reduce the risk of fatality or serious injury. This article does not attempt to determine the true effectiveness of front airbags. Rather, the intention is to point out deficiencies in the analyses of Meyer and Finney. Their analyses are therefore replicated, with commentary added. Of particular concern is the exclusion of more than half of the eligible records because of missing data. The effect of this exclusion is discussed.