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Study warns of airbag danger to teens
Report: Teens ages 14 and younger face risk of serious injury by air bags if seated in front seat.
June 6, 2005: 1:28 PM EDT
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A new study released Monday shows that young teenagers may face a greater risk of injury or death from automobile air bags than previously believed, according to a news report.

The report, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, warned that air bags pose a risk to children up to age 14 when they are seated in the front seat of a car, according to Scripps Howard News Service.

The study, which was produced by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, analyzed 3,790 accident reports that involved children ages 18 years and younger seated in the front seat, the news organization said. The researchers undertook the study after noting a lack of crash data on teens and air bags, the story said.

Frontal airbags inflate rapidly when a vehicle crashes into something. Along with seatbelts and "crumple zones" -- parts of the vehicle's body that are designed to crush on impact -- airbags can help protect occupants from sudden deceleration and from striking parts of the car such as the dashboard or windshield.

The explosive force of an airbag's inflation, however, can cause serious injury or even death to small children.

Federal law currently requires automakers to post a warning inside vehicles which advises owners of the risk that front passenger air bags pose to children ages 12 and younger and advises against seating children in the front seat.

"Those warnings worked in reducing injuries to children, but as a parent and emergency physician, I felt it was time to study whether more children could be at risk and assess whether age or body size were good measurement guidelines," Dr. Craig Newgard, the author of the study and an assistant professor at OHSU, told Scripps Howard.

The report also noted that children older than 14 -- from 15 to 18 - could benefit from an air bag when riding in the front passenger seat.

Dr. Roger Lewis, a co-author of the study, told Scripps Howard that he believed that physical attributes of teenagers, such as a lack of bone density and muscle mass, may explain the risks that air bags pose to younger teens.

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