Side impact air bags can seriously injure or kill children, even though they make cars safer for adults.
In October 1999 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released an advisory that warns against letting children sit next to most side air bags, which are now beginning to be provided in rear seats. The NHTSA has asked automobile manufacturers to notify owners of this advisory, so that they can deactivate the bags if children are likely to ride next to them. Not all side air bags are dangerous, so the manufacturer is supposed to inform owners about the safety of each model.
I prefer the NHTSA’s other suggestion: rear seat side air bags should be shipped deactivated (safe for children), so that owner’s must choose before turning them on. In the meantime be careful where your children ride — especially when it’s not your car!