1996-02-01

Air Bag Deployment Frequency and Injury Risks 960664

Automobile insurance claims were examined to determine the air bag deployment frequencies of cars with significant frontal crash damage. Air bag deployment frequencies were found to vary greatly by car model. Two popular midsize cars -- the Dodge Neon and Honda Civic -- were studied in detail to better understand the differences in the performance of different air bag systems in low severity crashes (delta V ≤ 15 mph). The Neon had a greater frequency of low speed air bag deployments than the Civic, which in turn resulted in a greater likelihood of air bag-induced minor injuries, in particular upper extremity injuries for females. Differences in air bag leading edge speed and excursion distance may also contribute to the different likelihood of injuries. The comparisons provide no information on the overall performance -- in particular the protection offered in high speed crashes -- but they do illustrate the importance of both nominal and actual deployment characteristics in low speed crashes. An important goal for future air bag designs should be to minimize deployments in low speed crashes, without compromising protection in the more important high speed crashes.

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