Risk of Injury to Restrained Children from Passenger Air Bags

The objectives of this study were to estimate the prevalence of children's exposure to passenger air bag (PAB) deployments and to determine the relative risk of both minor and more serious nonfatal injuries to restrained children exposed to PABs in frontal impact collisions. Data were collected from 1 December 1998 to 30 November 2001 from a large-scale, child-specific crash surveillance system based on insurance claims, a telephone survey, and on-site crash investigations. Vehicles qualifying for inclusion were State Farm-insured, model year 1990 or newer, and involved in a crash with at least one child occupant ≤15 years of age. Qualifying crashes were limited to those that occurred in 15 states and the District of Columbia. A stratified cluster sample was designed in order to select vehicles (the unit of sampling) for the conduction of a telephone survey with the driver. For cases in which child occupants were seriously injured or killed, in-depth crash investigations were performed. The prevalence of exposure to PABs was calculated as the number of children occupying the right front seat in a PAB deployment crash among all children occupying the right front seat in vehicles equipped with PABs. Complete interview data were obtained on 9,779 vehicles involving 15,341 children. Among PAB-exposed children, 175 (14%) suffered serious injuries versus 41 (7.5%) of those in the comparison group (OR 2.0; 95% CI, 1.1-3.7). The overall risk of any injury (both minor and serious) was 86% among children exposed to PABs, compared to 55% among the comparison group (OR 5.3; 95% CI, 2.1-13.4). Exposure to PABs increased the risk of both minor injuries, including facial and chest abrasions, and more serious injuries, particularly upper extremity fractures.