The exposure of children to deploying side air bags: an initial field assessment

Annu Proc Assoc Adv Automot Med. 2007:51:245-59.


Tremendous effort has been invested in the laboratory to ensure side air bag (SAB) deployments minimize injury metrics in pediatric anthropometric test devices (ATDs). Little is known, however, about the experience of children exposed to this technology in real world crashes. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of SAB exposure in children and provide estimates of injury risk among those exposed. This study utilized data from the Partners for Child Passenger Safety study, a large-scale child-focused crash surveillance system, to identify a probability sample of 348 child occupants, age 0-15 years, weighted to represent 6,600 children, in vehicles of model year 1998 and newer, equipped with SABs, in side impact crashes from three large U.S. regions between 1/1/05 and 12/31/06. In the study sample, 27 children per 1000 children in crashes were exposed to a deployed side air bag. Over 75% of these children were seated in the rear seat and 83% were exposed to a head curtain SAB. 65% of those exposed were less than 9 years of age. Of those exposed, 10.6% sustained an AIS2+ injury; all injuries were of the AIS 2 level and limited to the head or upper extremity. This paper provides the first population-based estimates of the exposure of children to SABs. Initial experience suggests that the risk of injury is fairly low with only one in ten sustaining injury - none of which were serious or life threatening. These findings offer assurance that efforts by regulators and the automotive industry to minimize negative consequences from SABs to vulnerable occupants appear to be effective and cause no change in the current recommendation of safe seating for children next to SABs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Bags / adverse effects*
  • Automobiles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Equipment*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment