Air Bags Risky For Young Teens

Child in car with deploying airbag, with AIRBAGS lettering, 5-21-96
Do children need to wait until they're 15 years old to be protected by a front-seat air bag in the event of a crash?

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recommends that children 12 years old and younger "should always ride properly restrained in a rear seat." Now, a new study suggests that air bags protection may start at age 15.

"Children up to 14 years of age may be at risk for serious preventable injury when seated in front of a passenger air bag, and children 15 to 18 years of age seem to experience protective effects of air bag presence and deployment," say Craig Newgard, MD, MPH, and colleagues in June's issue of Pediatrics.

About Air Bags

Air bags have saved many lives. However, because they must deploy very quickly, their force may cause injuries. Those injuries are usually "very minor abrasions or burns," says the web site of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Serious or even fatal injuries can occur when someone is very close to or in direct contact with an air bag module when the air bag deploys, says the NHTSA. The NHTSA recommends that drivers leave at least 10 inches from their breastbone to the center of the steering wheel.