Volume 47, Issue 5 (September 2002)
Driver and Front Seat Passenger Fatalities Associated with Air Bag Deployment. Part 2: A Review of Injury Patterns and Investigative Issues
Assessment of the role of air bag deployment in injury causation in a crash of any severity requires analysis of occupant, vehicle, and impact data. The potential injurious role of an air bag is independent of crash severity and is more obvious in minor collisions, particularly those involving “out-of-position” occupants. Factors such as occupant height and other constitutional and medical factors, intoxication, age, type, and proper use of other restraint systems, pre-impact braking and multiple impacts can contribute to an occupant being “out-of-position.” Two injury mechanisms are described in out-of-position occupants: “punch-out” when the individual covers the air bag module before deployment and “membrane-force” when the occupant contacts a partly deployed air bag. Each mechanism is associated with injury patterns. In adults, “punch-out“ can cause thoraco-abdominal trauma and “membrane-force” loading can lead to craniocervical injury. This can also occur in short-statured occupants including children subjected to both types of loading. In more severe collisions, other factors, e.g., intrusion, steering column and seatbelt loading and other occupant compartment contacts, can contribute to trauma.