Airbag deployment and improperly restrained children: A lethal combination

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa*, Peter Jun, Geoffrey T. Manley, Margaret M. Knudson, Nalin Gupta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Airbag deployment is an acknowledged mechanism of serious trauma in children involved in motor vehicle crashes. From a review of national databases, we determined the number and types of fatal and nonfatal injuries to children caused by airbag deployment and child restraint system use. We also reviewed the relevant literature and provide information useful for caregivers and health care professionals in hopes of reducing future injuries. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 263 reported cases in which airbag deployment caused fatal or nonfatal injuries in children from reports released by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration and the National Pediatric Trauma Registry. Data were collected from January 1993 to December 2002 and imported into a database program for analysis. Results: Of the 263 pediatric injuries caused by airbag deployment, 159 were fatal, and 104 were nonfatal. The peak incidence occurred in 1998, when 58 children were reported injured. Head injuries were most frequent, involving 170 children (64.6%), followed by spinal injuries, involving 100 children (38.0%). For children in their first year of life, head injuries were the sole mechanism of fatality. Of all children studied, only six (2.3%) were properly restrained. Conclusion: Airbag deployment in motor vehicle crashes is a well-recognized mechanism of morbidity and mortality in the pediatric population. Most injuries include trauma to the head and spine, which can have significant long-term consequences. Although the reported incidence of such injuries is decreasing, many children are improperly restrained. In our study, only 2.3% of children were properly restrained, suggesting that proper child restraint and seating position could have prevented most injuries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-733
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Airbag deployment
  • Child restraint system
  • Injury
  • Motor vehicle crash


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