TRW ADS BACK PASSENGER AIR BAGS: MANUFACTURER NOTES DEVICE'S RECORD OF SAVING LIVES

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TRW has launched a nationwide ad campaign to convince the public-as well as the federal government-that passenger-side air bags are not the evil menace they've been portrayed to be.

TRW is running the print ads in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and Washington, D.C., newspapers through June. Radio commercials are being used also, the company said.

The ads tout the position that the benefits of passenger bags far outweigh their risks to children and smaller adults. Creative uses testimonials from traffic-accident survivors and cites highway death tolls to remind the public that the restraint systems save lives.

"Disconnecting air bags would be a step backward," reads the TRW ad copy.

Copy also alludes to "smart" technology under development that will take a passenger's size into consideration before deploying.

DEBATE OVER DISCONNECTING

The ads come as industry and government officials debate whether vehicle owners should be permitted to disconnect their passenger-side bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to decide as early as this month on whether to authorize owners to disconnect their air bags.

Air bag impacts have been blamed for killing 66 people, including 39 children.

TRW, one of the largest air bag makers, counters in its ads that nearly 2,000 people have been saved by the systems.

"It's nice to see someone else concerned about disconnecting air bags," said an NHTSA spokesman. "We don't think it's a good idea, either, for most people. There's a lot of unfounded concern on the part of the public about air bags."

Mr. Chappell is a staff reporter for Automotive News.

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