Side airbags were first introduced into vehicles around 1995 to help protect passenger car occupants from serious injury in struck side crashes. International studies have shown that side airbags are effective at reducing the risk of death in near side impacts. They can also provide benefit in other types of crashes, such as vehicle rollovers. However, serious injuries can still occur when side airbags deploy.
The aims of this study were to quantify the effectiveness of side airbags in reducing the risk of death and injury for occupants involved in side impact crashes in Australasia using Police crash data alone; and to use detailed injury information linked to Police reported crash data to determine the effectiveness of side airbags in reducing the risk of death and injury for occupants involved in side impact crashes in Victoria. It was found that the use of injury outcomes from Police crash data alone was inadequate for the evaluation of side airbag effectiveness. However Police reported crash data linked to higher resolution and validated injury data by body region available from injury compensation claims data produced much more stable analyses and more informative outcomes.
In particular, combination airbags were associated with statistically significant reductions of 61% in the odds of death and injury to the head, neck, face and thorax in struck side crashes (with a 95% confidence interval of 27% to 79%). In comparison, torso-only protecting airbags appeared less effective with no statistically significant injury effects found. However there was some indication of an increase in the odds of death and injury to the thorax region associated with torso only side airbags requiring further investigation.