New research by Victoria's Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) has found that side airbags have played a major role in occupant safety.
Analysing data from more than 52,000 insurance claims between 2001 and 2009, the study showed that the growing use of side airbags resulted in a 51 percent reduction in body injuries over the period.
The data also showed a 61 percent reduction in injuries to head, neck, face and thorax - all areas protected by side airbags.
Jack Haley, a vehicle safety expert with the NRMA, said side impact vehicle crashes were common in Australia, accounting for 25 per cent of vehicle occupant casualties and 28 per cent of fatalities.
The MUARC study analysed a number of different side airbag systems, with the results revealing that combination airbags - protecting the head, neck, face and thorax - are highly effective in reducing the number of deaths on the road.
Motorists are not hard-up for choice when it comes to new cars fitted with the technology, with the majority of new models offering side airbags either as standard equipment or as an optional extra.