Air bags and kids: A dangerous combination

Passenger air bags are installed in virtually all new cars. Though they are saving lives in frontal crashes, more children are being killed than saved by air bags, according to an article in "The Journal of the American Medical Association."

Fatalities from passengers riding in the right front seat of 1992 to 1995 cars and vans were analyzed. Passenger side air bags were associated with a significant reduction in adult deaths (18 percent lower). But fatalities among children under ten years of age were 34 percent higher than expected in frontal crashes. During this study period, the deaths 11 children and 3 babies were blamed on air bags.

The researchers recommend immediate steps be taken to reduce the dangers of air bags to children. They suggested that car makers could reduce risks by using air bag inflators that deploy with less force. More stringent seat belt laws coupled with active enforcement were also recommended. Most child fatalities were associated with unbelted or improperly belted children.

SOURCE: JAMA (1997;278:1431-39)

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