Driver Fatalities in Frontal Crashes of Airbag-Equipped Vehicles: A Review of 1989-96 NASS Cases 2000-01-1003
Using data from the National Automotive Sampling System/Crashworthiness Data System (NASS/CDS) for1995-96, this study updates previous analyses of driver fatalities in airbag-equipped vehicles in the NASS/CDS database for 1989-93 and 1989-94. A total of 59 cases of frontal crashes of airbag-equipped vehicles with driver fatalities were identified in these 8 years of NASS/CDS data, but in 9 cases the fatalities were not related to the impacts (e.g., fire, medical condition). Vehicle intrusion was the cause of the fatal injuries in 27 cases, and 7drivers died from injuries sustained when they were either partially or totally ejected from their vehicles. There was one case in which the airbag did not deploy, although the crash conditions indicated it should have. One driver died from contact with a nonintruding vehicle surface, and the causes of the fatal injuries in 5 cases were unknown. There were no cases in which drivers died because airbags had insufficient power to prevent the fatal injuries, although in one of the vehicle-intrusion-related fatalities the airbag deployed in the first of two impacts and thus was not able to protect the driver throughout the crash sequence. There were 9 cases in which airbags likely contributed to the drivers’ fatal injuries. Six of these occurred in higher severity crashes with delta Vs greater than 30 km/h (20 mi/h), one was in a crash with a delta V of 26 km/h (16 mi/h), and two had unknown delta Vs.