To address the predictability of injury from air bag activation by use of crash simulation software.
Using current, validated crash simulation software, the effect of air bag activation on injury risk was assessed for the 6-year-old child, both restrained and unrestrained. Results were compared with those for adult occupants in similar crash scenarios.
For the unrestrained child passenger, crash simulations predicted serious head, neck, and chest injuries with air bag activation, regardless of crash severity. For the restrained child passenger, crash simulations predicted similar severe injuries for high-severity crashes only. No serious injuries were predicted for unrestrained male adults exposed to air bags or for child passengers restrained in the rear seat for the crash scenarios simulated.
Using current crash simulation software, this study demonstrated that the risk of air bags to school-aged children could be predicted. Our results confirmed the previously identified risks to unrestrained children and provided the first evidence that air bags, in their current design, are not beneficial to restrained children. This study illustrates that computer crash simulations should be used proactively to identify injury risks to child occupants, particularly when limited real-world data are available.