1996-11-01

Air Bags and Children: Results of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Special Investigation into Actual Crashes 962438

Air bags have been and continue to be an effective, life-saving technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that air bags have saved almost 1,500 lives, with an estimated 569 lives saved in 1995 alone. However, the increasing availability of air bags in passenger vehicles and light trucks has seen a concomitant rise in the report of injuries related to air bag deployment. While the vast majority of these injuries has been minor, the exposure of children to passenger-side air bag deployments has resulted in reports of more serious injuries. The objective of this study was to examine the interaction of air bags and children in actual crash scenarios. Investigations were conducted as part of the NHTSA's Special Crash investigation Program. This paper will present a case series of more than twenty serious or fatal injuries in children attributed to air bag deployment. Cases of children whose lives were saved by air bags, the “success stories,” were not included in the series because these cases were not reported to the NHTSA. Analysis of the investigations included determination of vehicle dynamics, occupant kinematics and injury patterns in order to define injury mechanisms.

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