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Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1

    Side Curtain Airbags - Unsafe for kids?

    I'm looking for more information about the threat side curtain airbags pose to children. I've read numerous articles about the dangers of side (deploy from door or seat) airbags, but I can't find much about side curtain (deploy from roof) airbags. We're looking to buy a new car and I need to know whether those with side curtain airbags should be excluded from our list.

    I called NHTSA and a representative told me that they do not recommend that children ride in a car with side airbags - but it was clear to me that she was confused about the difference between the two types of airbags. I clarified that I wanted to know about side curtain airbags, so she put me on hold to ask someone else. When she came back, the rep repeated the same recommendation using a I'm-reading-this-from-a-form tone. I'm still skeptical because she couldn't direct me to an article on their Web site or provide any other sort of reference to further explain their recommendation.

    Does anyone have or know where I can find more information? Thanks.

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  3. #2

    re: earlier post

    I somehow missed the side curtain references in the rear seat thread below - sorry for the overlapping posts. Still hoping to find more data that may have become available since it was posted.

  4. #3

    No problem at all

    We are all hoping to see more data on this soon. As it is, we are trusting the NHTSA guidelines that direct manufacturers to disable any rear-seat side impact airbags that might be a danger to children. This suggestion does not appear to be in any standard, so it is probably just a suggestion. It also leaves the determination up to each manufacturer. That's a lot of trust. Still, from what I understand, side airbags, especially curtains, deploy with much less force than frontal airbags.

    If you see any articles or studies, please report back here with links! Thanks.

  5. #4

    Side Curtain Airbags

    I have done some investigation into this as my mom bought just a rear ago a Mercedes wagon with three shoulder-lap belts but side curtain airbags in the back seat. Shortly after she bought the car, I saw the NHTSA pronouncement that it is not okay to put kids in the back seat with side curtain airbags. So although this rep. at NHTSA seemed confused, there was an actual NY Times article about a year or two ago explaining that NHTSA doesn't think kids should be next to side curtain air bags. However, Mercedes is the only manufacturer that continues to fight this--the continue to say that the side curtain air bags are safe. However, if you actually examine the back doors, you see a warning not to have kids lean at all against the windows because of those air bags. Well, my kids are only 6 and 3, and if they may well lean against the window, especially if they fall asleep. My mother and I continue to have a fight over this--despite the fact that I told her what NHTSA said. She says the side curtain air bags would help the kids immensely in the event of a side impact. While I agree that could be true, I trust NHTSA. In the meantime, she uses her car if she has one of my kids (who can sit in the middle of the back away from the side curtain air bags) or she uses my car.

  6. #5

    New Information on side impact airbags:

    This was an active topic at a recent conference I attended on traffic safety. There is now updated information in Q61 of our FAQ here:

    The current industry consensus is that side impact airbags on most new vehicles are safe and effective, and that the advantages far outweigh any possible disadvantages even for child passengers. A technical working group chaired by the IIHS has done significant testing and has produced a voluntary set of standards used by most manufacturers. More details can be found here:

    Children in harnessed carseats should generally be safe next to a side impact airbag. Older vehicles with side impact airbags may pose a greater risk, especially to out-of-position passengers, particularly children in seatbelts or boosters.

    Some carseats (especially Evenflo) and vehicles may prohibit placement of a child near an active airbag of any type. Please read your owner's manuals carefully before installing a carseat next to any type of airbag.

    A presenter at the conference mentioned that according to NHTSA fatality data, there have been no deaths caused by side impact airbag deployments. There has been at least one serious injury to an adult reported, though no serious injuries from side impact airbags have been reported for children. Cases have been reported where children had been afforded increased protection from a side impact airbag. Also see:

    Here are some links to warnings on the issue:

    Here are other some studies on the issue:

  7. #6

    Caviller et al - side airbags on Forester 2003

    First, I want to thank you for all of your info and for this wonderful site!
    I followed your links to the nhtsa's documents on the recent side airbag tests and I must admit I am still confused (I have no idea what the chest deflation/and other impact ratings mean in the real world). Further, I feel that the findings that there have been no deaths attributed to side airbags may be misleading because there simply aren't enough equipped vehicles out there to make statistically significant and generalizable assumptions.
    My question is this - I just purchased a subaru forester 2003 that comes standard with the side airbags. Subaru has assured me that they deploy only to the front seat and therefore are not an safety issue. In the pictures, they show the bag opening only over the front seat, but I wonder if impact would actually shift that.

    I am glad that Subaru feels that the side airbags are safe for rear babes. However, I trust your opinion more than that of any auto manufacturer and I am wondering if you believe that there is any danger to my two wee ones - one in a toddler seat and one in a booster - both in the BACK seat (not in the center position). The toddler seat will b LATCHed in on the side.
    Thanks so much for your time and wisdom.

  8. #7

    I think you will not have any worries...

    First, if there are only side airbags in front, the risk is very negligible. Plus, as a 2003 vehicle, it most likely does conform to the voluntary standards set by the working group on side airbags. As such, even side airbags in the rear are likely to be well designed and tested so as not to be a hazard to occupants. In fact, they are likely to protect all passengers, including children.

    As you said, there isn't a lot of data yet. That is probably why the NHTSA will not take a stand on the subject. Even so, NHTSA did author some of the links I proivded earlier, and they are definitely a part of the technical working group on side airbags. I suspect if you contacted one of the authors of the papers I linked, you might get a different opinion. Perhaps not an official one, but probably a more informed one:-)


  9. #8

    Thanks Darren

    I greatly appreciate your time and info. I may in fact contact one of the NHTSA people, but I feel 100% more secure in putting my kids in the back seat after your informed response.
    thanks again!



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