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Acad Emerg Med. 1999 Jul;6(7):708-14.

A retrospective review of air bag deaths.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, The George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.



To describe occupant and crash characteristics in the first 27 publicly released investigations of air-bag-related fatalities.


A retrospective review of the first 27 released crash investigations of air-bag-induced fatalities was conducted. Data were obtained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Three separate groups of occupants are described: adult drivers, school-aged children riding in the right front passenger seat, and infants installed into rear-facing infant car seats placed into the right front passenger seat. Female drivers were significantly likely to be short-statured. Male drivers tended to be slumped over the wheel. Eleven children (100%) were improperly restrained and thrown forward by preimpact braking. Adults tended to have serious chest injuries, while children tended to have CNS or neck injuries. All three infants had fatal CNS injuries. The average deltaV (change in the vehicle's velocity at the moment of impact) was 12 mph and the average bumper crash was 8.8 inches.


Air bags can cause fatal injury to car occupants in low- or moderate-speed crashes. Data suggest that proximity to the air bag at the time of deployment is the critical risk factor for fatal injury.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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