The federal government has ended a 20-month probe into Hyundai Accent air bag systems that have played a role in the deaths of 10 children, Associated Press reported.

The Federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that at least eight of the children killed were not properly restrained in a seat belt or child safety seat and were probably very close to the air bag when it deployed.

Hyundai officials told AP that they need more time to review the 18-page report and had no comment.

The NHTSA report said investigators are concerned about the relatively high number of child air bag deaths in the Accent, but recognize there are significant deaths in other vehicles. It said the fatalities can be blamed on several factors.

AP said that the agency drew no conclusion about whether there is a safety defect in the Accent's air bag system. It said it would take further action if warranted, but there does not appear to be enough evidence to continue the investigation.

The NHTSA investigation, begun in July 1999, looked at 1995 to 1999 models of the Accent, a popular low-price compact car made in Korea. Hyundai redesigned the model and its air bags for the 2000 model year.

There are about 243,203 of the vehicles in the United States and Puerto Rico, AP said.

It added that, in 1997, Hyundai began putting stickers in their vehicles, warning owners that children 12 and under are safest when they ride in the back seat and wear restraints. NHTSA noted that since then, there have been fewer child fatalities related to air bags.

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Global market for airbags and seatbelts : Forecasts to 2010 (download)

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