A study of air bag deployments has indicated that some occupant injury was “unexpected” and might have been related to loading by the inflating bag. Laboratory studies have found “high” loads on surrogates when they are out of a normal seating position and in the path and against an inflating air bag (out-of-position). The current study evaluated laboratory methods for assessing the significance of deployment loads and the interaction mechanics for the situation of an occupant located near or against a steering wheel mounted air bag. Analysis of the field relevance of the results must consider not only factors relating to the assessment of injury risk, but also exposure frequency.
The highest responses for the head, neck, or torso were with that body region aligned with and against the air bag module. The risk of severe injury was low for the head and neck, but high when the torso was against and fully covering the air bag module. Torso injury was related to swelling of the module before bag break-out from the module. Reducing inflator output provided only minimal reduction in torso injury risk. Providing pressure relief by an alternate bag break-out path or preventing full coverage of the module reduced the severity of torso loads.