Airbags – Safety Friend, or Foe?

The average driver’s side airbag inflates in 20 to 30 milliseconds, exploding out of its housing at 200 miles per hour. The technology used to deploy airbags is actually similar to the technology in some rocket boosters.

The first car with a passenger airbag sold to the public was the 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado. However, rudimentary patents date as far back as the 1950s for airbag predecessors.  In addition, Ford and General Motors started experimenting with inflatable restraints in the 1950s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that airbags were available in most vehicles.

How They Work

Airbags are designed to work in conjunction with seat belts to safeguard drivers and passengers from injury. An airbag works by using sensors, which deploy the safety devices when a vehicle has an impact in the area of the sensor. The sensors deploy the airbags by sending an electrical charge which sparks a chemical reaction that results in the inflation of the airbag with harmless nitrogen gas, using air taken from vents in the rear of the airbag.

The “Largest and Most Complex Safety Recall in U.S. History”

Airbags and one of their manufacturers, Takata, have often been in the news in the last couple of years. Takata manufactured and distributed the faulty airbags. Nineteen different car makers used these airbags in cars from model years 2002 through 2015. Approximately 42 million cars were subsequently recalled. Faulty airbags were responsible for 16 deaths as of late March 2019. Head, neck, spine, back, lower and upper limb, and torso injuries have also occurred.

The NHTSA has called this recall “The largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”  The root cause of the problem was a faulty inflator. You can visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for more information on this safety recall.

Airbags Generally Safe

However, no one is arguing the safety benefits of properly-manufactured and designed airbags. Most of the time, airbags prove to be life savers. From 1987 to 2017, frontal air bags saved 50,457 lives in the U.S. Arguably, they are one of the greatest achievements in automotive safety technology in history [source: NHTSA]. However, as indicated above, cases of airbag malfunctions occur.

Accidents involving airbags can happen because of several factors. There may be a defect in the airbag itself. A failure in the computer system that directs deployment of the airbag could fail. Sensors necessary for airbag deployment could fail.

Baby Girl Smiling, Sitting in Car Seat
Kids Belong in the Back Seat

Children and Airbags

Kids, especially those under 12 years of age, should always ride in the back seat. Air bags were designed for the average-sized adult and are very dangerous for infants and small children. For more information on keeping children safe in the car, please check out CHOP’s safety guidelines here.

What To Do If You Are Seriously Injured by an Air Bag

If an airbag causes your injury, seek medical attention immediately. Preserving airbag evidence will not likely be on your mind. However, for the sake of potential legal action, please retain the airbag itself. Do not allow for the car’s computer system to be reset or wiped clean. Last, don’t allow the vehicle to be junked or taken by the insurance company.

Noel & Bonebrake Can Help With Your Injury Claim

With more than 100 years of combined legal practice experience, the lawyers of Noel & Bonebrake will fight for the compensation that you deserve. Whether your injury is the result of a faulty product including defective airbags, a motorcycle or auto accident, a slip and fall, a dog bite, or other accident, we will fight for your rights. Contact the law offices of Noel & Bonebrake today!