Update: fatal air bag-related injuries to children--United States, 1993-1996

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1996 Dec 13;45(49):1073-6.


Dual air bags will be required standard equipment in all new passenger cars sold in the United States beginning in 1997 and all light trucks sold in the United States in 1998 but are available now in many earlier-model vehicles. Air bags are designed to supplement the protection provided by safety belts in frontal crashes; when combined with lap and shoulder safety belts, air bags assist in preventing fatal and nonfatal injuries in motor-vehicle crashes. However, passenger-side air bags have been associated with injuries to children who, in almost all cases, were unrestrained or incorrectly restrained in the front seat. In 1993, approximately 1.4 million (0.8% of all vehicles registered) were equipped with passenger-side air bags, compared with an estimated 21.6 million vehicles (11.4% of all vehicles registered) in 1996 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], unpublished data, 1996). NHTSA, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and CDC collaborated with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Air Bag Safety Campaign, the National Safety Council, the Brain Injury Association, the National Association of Governors Highway Safety Representatives, the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions, and the Health Resources and Services Administration to examine crashes from the Special Crash Investigation Data File maintained by NHTSA, in which fatal injuries in children (aged < 12 years) were associated with passenger-side air bags. This report presents the findings of this review, which indicate that during January 1993-November 1996, annual increases occurred for both the number of fatal injuries to children resulting from air-bag deployments and the proportion of dual air bag-equipped vehicles (Table 1).

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Air Bags*
  • Automobiles*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Safety
  • Seat Belts