An Evaluation of the 1998-1999 Redesign of Frontal Air Bags

The first generation of frontal air bags saved the lives of thousands of drivers and adult or teenage right-front passengers. But they harmed occupants positioned close to the air bag at the time of deployment, especially infants and children. In 1998-1999, air bags were redesigned by depowering – by removing some of the gas-generating propellant or stored gas from their inflators – and/or by reducing the volume or rearward extent of air bags, positioning them further from occupants, tethering and hybrid inflators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) facilitated the redesign by permitting a sled test in lieu of a barrier impact to certify that air bags would protect an unrestrained occupant (“sled certification”). Statistical analyses of crash data through 2004 from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the Special Crash Investigations (SCI) compare fatality risk with sled-certified and first-generation air bags. The overall fatality risk in frontal crashes of 0-12 year-old child passengers in the front seat is a statistically significant 45% lower with sled-certified air bags than with first-generation air bags; fatalities caused by air bags in low-speed crashes were reduced by 83%. The overall fatality risk of drivers and of right-front passengers age 13 and older in frontal crashes is not significantly different with sled-certified air bags than with first-generation air bags; sled-certified air bags preserved the life-saving benefits of first-generation air bags.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Edition: NHTSA Technical Report
  • Features: References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 104p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01042193
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-810 685
  • Files: HSL, TRIS, USDOT
  • Created Date: Feb 26 2007 2:40PM