Analysis of Driver Fatalities in Frontal Crashes of Airbag-Equipped Vehicles in 1990-98 NASS/CDS 2001-01-0156
This study, which is an extension of an earlier study, examined an additional 64 frontal crashes of airbag-equipped vehicles in the 1997-98 National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS/CDS) in which the driver died. The principal cause of death in each case was determined based on an examination of the publicly available case materials, which primarily consisted of the crash narrative, the injury/source summary, and photographs of the crashed vehicle. Results were consistent with the earlier analyses of the 1990-96 NASS/CDS files. In the combined data set (1990-98), gross deformation of the occupant compartment was the leading cause (42 percent) of driver deaths in these 116 frontal crashes. The force of the deploying airbag (16 percent) and ejection from the vehicle (13 percent) also accounted for significant portions of the driver deaths in these frontal crashes. There continues to be little or no evidence that airbags deploy with too little energy. In contrast to previous analyses, there were 5 crashes in 1997-98 in which the driver's fatal injuries may have resulted from bottoming the airbag. However, there were equally plausible, alternative explanations for these fatal injuries, including the possibility that they were caused by the airbag itself in 4 of the 5 cases.