(Received 30 March 2005; accepted 23 June 2005)
Published Online: 2005
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Many automobile manufacturers began installing airbags on the driver's side in the late 1980's. Passenger side airbags followed in the early 1990's. Most airbags use a solid-propellant type of material that produces a hot gas to inflate the airbags. The gas in the driver side airbag leaves the inflator at a temperature as hot as 600°C. The hot gas escapes through the vent holes after deployment, but it can also leak through the stitching seams in the front and singe a pattern on the occupant's clothing characteristic of the seam pattern. The singe patterns from the driver and passenger side airbags will be different. Cornstarch, which is used as a lubricant in some driver side airbags, can transfer to the driver's shirt. Hairs, fibers and make-up can transfer from the driver or passenger to the surface of the deployed airbags. Two cases are presented, illustrating singe patterns and particle transfers, and how they helped determine who a driver or passenger were.
Illinois State Police, Carbondale, IL
Stock #: JFS2005163