Air Bag Deactivation: Why Some People Are at Risk

How do air bag deaths occur?

To perform well, an air bag must deploy quickly. The force is greatest in the first 8 cm after the air bag bursts through its cover and begins to inflate. Those 8 cm are the "risk zone." The force decreases as the air bag inflates farther.

Occupants who are very close to or on top of the air bag when it begins to inflate can be hit with enough force to suffer serious or fatal injuries. However, occupants who are properly restrained and sit 25 cm away from the air bag cover will contact the air bag only after it has completely or almost completely inflated. The air bag then will absorb the kinetic energy of the occupants and protect them from hitting the hard surfaces in the vehicle.

A description of how air bags work is described in the section entitled How Air Bags Work.

Do both children and adults face risk?

Yes, both children and adults face the risk of air bag injury or death if they are positioned too close to the air bag or fail to use proper restraints. Both adults and children have died from air bag-related injuries.

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