AIR BAGS AND CHILDREN DON'T MIX
This year, over 20 million American vehicles will have passenger side air bags, a safety feature soon to become standard on all new cars. Designed to inflate rapidly, the air bags prevent passengers from hitting the windshield or dashboard in a collision. Air bags - a great safety feature on vehicles - have deployed in more than 850,000 and reduced driver deaths in frontal crashes by 30 percent nationally. Although air bags were designed to save lives, they can be a very serious risk to children. Although 500 drivers lives were saved by air bags in 1995, 15 children died of air bag-related injuries during the same period. In eleven of the crashes, the children were not wearing safety belts or were not wearing them properly. In other crashes, the force of the passenger side air bag's deployment killed four infants riding in rear-facing car seats.
Children are at increased risk for air bag-related injuries because of their size. The vehicle seat belts, when worn, do not fit most children correctly. As a result, children often place the shoulder belt behind them and perch on the edge of the vehicle seat. This positioning, combined with the child's short stature, places the child's face and neck directly in the path and full velocity of the deploying air bag. This turns a minor 10-mile-per-hour crash into a 140 -mile per hour head impact with the passenger-side air bag. The risk of death in a car crash with a passenger side air bag is extremely high for unrestrained children and for infants in rear-facing child seats.
Because of the above information, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:
For Children over 20 pounds: