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Differences in Air Bag Performance With Children in Various Restraint Configurations and Vehicle Types
Published May 19, 2003 by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in United States
Previous studies have identified a fatality risk for children exposed to air bags, particularly in the presence of non-restraint or inadequate restraint of the child and pre-impact braking, conditions that place the child out-of-position. Consequently, many manufacturers are opting to suppress the air bag when an out-of-position child, particularly one who is unrestrained, is detected. This study provides current estimates of injury risk for children exposed to airbags based on the large experience of children in crashes from the Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) project; describes the most common scenarios for these injuries; and attempts to replicate and extend the field data through sled testing and simulations. This study was conducted to enhance the scientific base on which decisions to suppress air bags can be made on restrained children. The results of this study suggest that more investigation must be conducted before air bag suppression for restrained children is chosen as the option for future air bags. Surveillance data suggest that restrained children are not at as high a fatality risk as previously reported for predominantly unrestrained children and that injuries that restrained children exposed to air bags receive are mostly not life-threatening. However, the performance of air bags for children varies widely among vehicle types. Of particular concern are sport utility vehicles (SUV) and passenger vans: children in the front seat of these vehicles and not exposed to an air bag were at a very low risk of injury but children in similar severity crashes in these vehicles who were exposed to air bags were at a considerable increased risk of injury. In addition, consideration should be given to the evaluation of the risk of upper extremity fractures, as this is one of the most common injuries for children exposed to air bags. Dynamic sled tests (29 kph pulse) were conducted in both a mid-sized car and sport utility vehicle buck. Results were extended using validated MADYMO models. Both sled testing and simulation results suggest a possible beneficial role of the air bag for certain crash scenarios involving children. Implications of the data for current child dummy design and airbag suppression considerations will be discussed.
- John Cooper - Automotive Occupant Restraints Council
- Stephen A. Ridella - Automotive Occupant Restraints Council
- Mohannad Murad - Automotive Occupant Restraints Council
- Richard Barnes - Automotive Occupant Restraints Council
- Michael J. Kallan - University of Pennsylvania
- Flaura K. Winston - University of Pennsylvania
- Rajiv A. Menon - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
- Kristy B. Arbogast - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia