Evaluation of Advanced Airbag Performance: Child Injury Exposure

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Virginia Tech


Airbags save lives; however, first generation airbags resulted in unintended fatal and injurious consequences for children and small statured adults seated in front of them. An immediate solution allowed for the development of less aggressive airbags (second generation), a subsequent revision to FMVSS 208 required further changes to airbags for the protection of children. These advanced airbags are required to either suppress or with a LRD in the presence of a child. Though car manufacturers have spent a considerable amount of time and money to meet the advanced airbag requirements, the effects of these airbags and characteristics of children seated in front of them have not been extensively studied. This thesis presents the requirements for advanced airbags, characteristics of children in MVCs, an evaluation of crashes involving children involved in crashes in the RFP seat for all airbag types and finally a case study of children seated in front of an advanced airbag during a crash.

Overall, vehicles with advanced airbags were found to be safer for children than vehicles equipped with earlier airbag generations including vehicles not equipped with airbags. These findings suggest that vehicles overall are safer since one option for an advanced airbag is suppression which would render the occupant without an airbag. Further, the advanced airbags appear to be working as intended during real-world crashes. However, the back seat remains the safest place for children; this work in no way advocates that children should be seated in the RFP seat.



Advanced airbag, child injury