New Air Bags Safer, Study Says
According to an article in the Detroit News on September 30, a new study shows that a new line of air bags designed to reduce injuries to children are effective in passenger cars and minivans, but don't lower the risk to kids riding in sport utility vehicles.
Compared with vehicles with the old air bags, children exposed to the so-called "second generation" air bags were half as likely to sustain a serious injury when they were riding in cars and minivans. But they were just as likely to be injured in SUVs when the new air bags deployed, according to data compiled by Partners for Child Passenger Safety, a group of researchers based at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The study examined State Farm Insurance claims involving 430,308 children ages 3-15 riding in 288,187 vehicles that crashed between Dec. 1, 1998, and Nov. 30, 2002. Of those, 47,923 had first-generation air bags that deployed and 60,069 had second-generation air bags that deployed.
The researchers said the sample size of SUVs was too small to explain why the bigger vehicles didn't reap the benefits of the newer air bags. But possible factors may be that SUVs are stiffer than other vehicles and have a larger zone where occupants are at greater risk of being hit in a way that can hurt them. Also, SUVs did not show a decrease in deployment rates between the designs.
In 1997, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered that passenger air bags be less explosive to cut down on harm to small occupants. These "second-generation" air bags will soon be phased out in favor of air bags designed to turn off or deploy with less force if a small person is in the front seat.