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 airbags 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 airbags 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 airbags 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 airbags. Dynamic sled tests (29kph 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.