Side airbag systems were first introduced into vehicles around 1995 to help protect occupants from injury in side impact crashes. International studies have shown that side airbags are effective in reducing the risk of death and injury, however, serious injuries can still occur even when side airbags deploy. The objective of this study was to use detailed injury information from insurance injury compensation claims data linked to Police reported crash data to determine the effectiveness of side airbags in reducing the risk of death or injury for occupants involved in side impact crashes in Victoria, Australia based on the specific body regions that side airbag systems are designed to protect. It was found that head and torso-protecting dual airbag systems designed to protect the head, neck, face, chest and abdomen are highly effective in reducing driver death or injury due to near side crashes. They were associated with a statistically significant reduction of 41.1% (25.9%, 53.2%) in the odds of death or injury across all body regions; and a 48.0% (28.0%, 62.4%) reduction in the odds of death or injury to the head, neck, face, chest and abdomen. The study did not find any evidence that torso-protecting airbags alone are effective in reducing death or injury. Analysis results indicate that head and torso-protecting side airbag systems in vehicles are a highly effective technology for reducing the risk of death or injury to vehicle occupants in near side crashes. The magnitude of the injury reduction benefits estimated indicate that fitment of this technology to all vehicles should be a high priority and will yield significant savings in overall road trauma.
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