Like many advances that are meant to make our lives easier and safer, airbags don’t come without their detriments. In fact, air bags have caused some serious injuries.
From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
Occasionally, the energy required to quickly inflate airbags can cause injury to people sitting or thrown too close to the airbag before it deploys. This was a serious concern with the first generations of frontal airbags, which deployed with greater force. NHTSA estimates that during 1990-2008, more than 290 deaths were caused by frontal airbag inflation in low-speed crashes. 1 Nearly 90 percent of the deaths occurred in vehicles manufactured before 1998, and more than 80 percent of people killed were unbelted or improperly restrained. Most of the deaths were passengers, and more than 90 percent of those were children and infants, most of whom were unbelted or in rear-facing child safety seats that placed their heads close to the deploying airbag. Short and elderly drivers, who tend to sit close to the steering wheel, also were vulnerable to inflation injuries from frontal airbags. However, thanks to advanced airbag government requirements, serious airbag injuries are becoming a thing of the past.
Though the design and engineering of airbags has improved, they can still injury drivers in a car accident. Why is this? Being hit with any object rapidly can cause injuries. Granted, it’s a big difference between a bag of air and a solid object such as a steering wheel or dashboard; still, here are some factors that can make airbags dangerous:
- The size of the person. A smaller person, i.e. a child, should not sit in the front seat where airbags may deploy. Smaller drivers in older cars have to sit closer to the steering wheel. Recent advances that are incorporated into newer vehicles have improved this, but an older vehicle’s airbag can injury someone sitting too close. The optimal distance is at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel.
- The position of a passenger’s arms or legs. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture what a rapidly deploying airbag could do to an arm or leg that isn’t supposed to be in its way. Fractures and abrasions can occur.
- Airbags can be effective only when the person they impact is wearing a seat belt. Otherwise, you risk fracturing your cervical spine, among other injuries.
- The substances inside of an airbag. If it is punctured, those chemicals and substances can be inhaled, among other unfortunate events.
If you have been injured in a car accident and the airbag deployed, it may be responsible for your injuries in whole or part. Call Bill Coats Law if you have experienced any of the following issues after an accident:
- Burns to the upper body and extremities
- Bruises to the face, knees, internal organs, upper body or extremities
- Abrasions, cuts or scrapes in the facial region
- Fractures to the face, skull, ribcage or extremities
- Fractures, strains or blunt trauma to the spine or brain stem
- Bruising, compression or swelling of the brain or other traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Deep cuts to the liver, spleen, veins, arteries, heart or lungs
- Internal bleeding
- Trauma or sprains to extremities
- Irritation to the throat, coughing or asthma symptoms
- Skin irritation
- Ruptured heart muscle
- Ruptured eye globe, retinal tear or corneal abrasion
- Hearing loss
- Trauma to the fetus of a pregnant woman/punctured placenta
What can you do to reduce your risk of these devastating injuries? The key is to wear your seat belt. This should be no surprise, as in general, seat belt usage improves your chances of surviving a car accident greatly, by nearly 50%. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a study that looked at fatalities that occurred despite the deployment of an airbag between 1990-2008. They discovered that a full 80 % of those deaths occurred while occupants were not wearing their seat belts at all, or incorrectly.
Other safety tips include:
- Make sure you have at least 10 inches between your body and the airbag compartment.
- If you can’t maintain the 10 inch distance and still reach the pedals, you may be able to purchase a car with an airbag on/off switch or have one retrofitted. Alternatively, you may be able to install pedal extensions.
- Children 12 years old and younger should always ride in the back seat whenever possible. If that is not feasible, put the largest child in the front and move the seat back as far as possible.
- Do not let passengers put their feet on the dash, or lean against car doors.
- Child safety seats belong in the back. Do not place a rear-facing child safety seat in the zone of frontal air bag deployment. Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in a seat that has front airbags
- Pregnant women in the third trimester should avoid being in a car if at all possible. Airbags and car accidents in general are very dangerous to fetuses.
If any of these injuries have happened to you or a friend or loved one, you are going through a devastating process of loss and healing. Bill Coats Law is here to help you financially recover. Call us today for a free consultation, at (360) 392-2833.