Diseases & Conditions
Since they were ﬁrst placed in cars to serve as protective devices during accidents, 116 children have been killed by the force of deploying air bags, according to the National Highway Trafﬁc Safety Administration. An air bag explodes out of the dashboard at rates of up to 200 miles per hour—faster than the blink of an eye—and can injure or kill a small child.
Because they were designed to protect adults, the force can be too strong for small children and can cause head and neck injuries in young riders. Still, the number of small children killed by air bags has fallen sharply in the past ﬁve years, suggesting that parents are getting the message that children are safest when riding in the backseat. There were only six child deaths caused by air bags in 2000, compared to 25 in 1996. In the same period, the number of cars with air bags rose from 22 million to more than 80 million.
The government began allowing switches to deactivate air bags in 1995 and recommends the passenger-side air bag be turned off if a child under age 13 is riding in the front seat. By September 1, 2003, all vehicles were required to have advanced air bags that deploy with less force or not at all when children are in the front seat.
Before riding in the front seat, a child should be
• at least 12 years of age
• at least 5 feet tall
• at least 110–120 pounds