Misuse of airbag deactivation when children are travelling in the front passenger seat.

This paper is based on the findings of the research project “Misuse of Airbag Deactivation During the Transportation of Children in CRS” funded by BASt. The goal of this project was to asses the risk of misuse that may occur during the combined use of passenger airbags and rearfacing child restraint systems (CRS). Additionally the danger of deploying airbags for rearfacing baby shells was assessed. The results of both assessments are presented in this conribution.

In the past, passenger airbags could at most be disconnected by a garage. Today there are several possibilities for the car driver himself to deactivate the airbag. Possible solutions are an on/off switch or the automatic detection of a child restraint system. Today, these systems are integrated in cars as a standard or can be ordered as optional equipment. Two types of misuse can occur: transportation of an infant while the airbag is switched off and transportation of an adult while the airbag is still disconnected.

The study used accident analyses and two types of survey amongst users in order to analyse the two (cases)options of misuse. In both surveys, it was difficult to (gather)acquire data about misuses in transporting children on the passenger seat. Apparently these cases of misuse are the exception. Two reasons can account for that: The high number of passenger airbags disabled and the (preference)wish of parents to seat their infants on the back seat. Most of them were found in older cars, which offer no simple way to disable the airbag. For systems that detect a child seat automatically, no misuse was found. The majority of misuses in cars equipped with a manual switch were caused by (errors of omission).

The second type of misuse is also prevented successfully by automatic systems. However, it is a general problem if the airbags are deactivated expensively by a garage. The resulting danger for adults following from a deactivated airbag is assessed to be lower than the danger of an active airbag for children by the car drivers. In the case of using a manual switch, however, the problem of oblivion remains.

Aus: Müller, G., Johannsen, H., Fastenmeier, W. & Schnottale, B. (2008). Misuse of airbag deactivation when children are travelling in the front passenger seat. 6th International Conference “Protection of children in cars”, 4.-5.12.2008, München: TÜV Süd Akademie..

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