The effect of passenger airbags on child seating behavior in motor vehicles

Eve Wittenberg, Toben F. Nelson, John D. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the presence of passenger airbags on places where children sit when traveling in motor vehicles. Methodology. An observational and driver interview survey of 503 passenger vehicles was conducted in five New England states at randomly selected long- and short-distance travel sites during the summer of 1998. Each vehicle was occupied by at least 1 child <13 years of age. Seating position, vehicle information, and driver and passenger characteristics were collected. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify the association between the presence of passenger airbags in vehicles and the seating positions of children. Results. Controlling for the effects of the driver and vehicle characteristics, children <13 years of age were less likely to be observed riding in the front right seat when a passenger airbag was present in the vehicle (odds ratio: .34; 95% confidence interval: .19-.61). Of the vehicles carrying children, 23% had at least 1 child riding in the front seat. Children rode in the front seat in 17% of vehicles with a passenger airbag, and in 30% of those without a passenger airbag. Half of all vehicles without a teenage or adult passenger carried a child in the front seat. In 91% of vehicles with a child riding in the front seat, there was at least one available seat in the rear. Driver safety belt use, younger child age, and the presence of an adult passenger in the vehicle were all associated with children being seated in the rear. Conclusions. Some New England drivers are protecting children from the risks of passenger airbags by seating them in the rear. There remains, however, a substantial number of children who are being exposed to the risk of passenger airbag deployment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1247-1250
Number of pages4
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999


  • Airbags
  • Behavior change
  • Children
  • Motor vehicle
  • Seating position


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of passenger airbags on child seating behavior in motor vehicles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this