Are Airbags More Dangerous Than Good?

Recent reports from car insurance carriers found that over 77 percent of drivers have been involved in at least one car accident, making your chances of getting into a car accident during a 1,000-mile trip 1 in 366. Additionally, the average driver will file an auto insurance claim once every 17.9 years 

Based on these statistics, the average person has about three to four auto accident claims in their lifetime. Generally speaking, these numbers reveal that getting into a car accident is not high on the list of worries for the average American. When backing out of your driveway, you probably don’t worry about getting into an accident. Instead, you’re likely thinking about just getting to your destination and moving on with your life.

Are Airbags Saving Lives?

One recent study conducted by the government found that an estimated 3.3 million airbags have been deployed in car accidents, saving more than 6,377 lives and preventing countless injuries. In 2009, the insurance industry estimated that 584,000 airbags deployed during collisions, including 84,000 passenger-side airbags. Undoubtedly these devices have saved lives and prevented injuries – but can airbags have a downside?

Between 1990 and 2000, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pinpointed 175 fatalities caused by airbags. Children accounted for 104 of those fatalities, while the rest were typically shorter female adults. Interestingly, all of these victims died in low-speed accidents and should have survived the impact itself. 

The Functions of an Airbag

The driver’s airbag is located in the steering wheel while the passenger airbag can be found behind the panel on the dashboard. When completely inflated, the driver’s side airbag is about the size of a large beach ball. The passenger airbag can actually be much larger when inflated. The reasoning behind this is that the passenger’s airbag is much farther away from the passenger than the driver’s airbag. It needs to inflate to a larger size to protect the passenger. 

The airbag connects to a crash sensor. If the car is in a crash that is sufficiently serious, the sensor will cause the airbag to deploy.  An impact generally needs to be a head-on or near-head-on crash at any speed above approximately eight to ten miles per hour for the sensor to deploy the airbag.


Harmful Injuries Caused by Airbag Deployment 

Airbags are designed to protect passengers and drivers in the event of a severe accident. However, there are cases where airbags can actually cause more harm than good. Airbags can sometimes cause severe injuries, especially for occupants of a vehicle who are not wearing seatbelts.

Some of the common injuries that can be caused by airbags include:
  • Brain injuries: When an airbag deploys, the head and face will get the majority of the impact. This can cause concussions, brain swelling, and bruising, and even the loss of consciousness.
  • Eye injuries: If the face is hit, the eyes are also at risk to receive the impact of an inflating airbag. If an airbag hits you, you might end up with a black eye, bleeding in the front of the eyes, or painful corneal abrasions. If you wear glasses and the airbag deploys, you might have the lenses of your glasses cracked or shattered. In the process, you could sustain additional injuries to your face and eyes.
  • Dental injuries: Dental injuries are often overlooked, but they still happen and have the potential to be severe. Although teeth are only a small portion of the human body, the pain associated with dental injuries can be severe. The force of the airbag inflating can cause chipped or broken teeth or even be so forceful to knock teeth out of their socket. You may need to see an emergency dentist who can perform sedation dentistry to help with your dental injuries. 
  • Fractures: Because they must deploy fast to provide protection, airbags deploy as fast as 100 to 220 miles per hour. At such a substantial speed, bone and soft tissue injuries can occur. Facial fractures of the eye sockets, nose, jaw, and other areas are common. By wearing a seat belt, you can prevent yourself from sliding under the airbag and causing a severe blow to your skull. 
Other types of injuries caused by airbags include:
  • Abrasions to the upper body, such as the arms, chest, and face
  • Bruises or contusions to arms, knees, chest, face and internal organs
  • Burns to the hands, arms, and chest
  • Wrist injuries and sprained fingers
  • Cervical spine injuries including fractures, strains, and blunt force trauma
  • Fractures to the skull, rib cage, face, arms and wrists
  • Traumatic head injuries, concussions, brain swelling, brain bruising and loss of consciousness
  • Lacerations to the liver, spleen, veins, heart, arteries, lungs and brain stem
  • Heart rupture
  • Asthma attacks, coughing and throat irritations
  • Airbag dermatitis, which irritates the skin
  • Eye injuries
  • Hearing loss and other trauma to the ear
  • Internal bleeding
  • Fetal harm or rupture or abruption of the placenta in pregnant women


Problems with Airbag Deployment

Airbags can malfunction and, when they do, they can cause extremely severe injuries. One of the most problematic malfunctions occurs with the crash sensor. These can include:

  • A sensor malfunction causing it to deploy the airbag at the wrong time (in a non-crash situation for example)
  • A sensor might not deploy the airbag at all during a crash
  • A sensor could deploy one airbag, but not the other
  • A sensor might deploy the airbag, but merely a microsecond too late

Timing is critical in the deployment of the airbag. Even a fraction of a second too late could cause serious injury as the driver or passenger’s head is now too close to the airbag.

Tips for Preventing Airbag Injuries

It is every driver’s responsibility to take every step to ensure that everyone is safe in his or her vehicle, especially if the airbags were to deploy. Here are some safety tips to follow:

  1. Wear a seatbelt at all times while in the car
  2. Children under 12 should only ride in the back seat
  3. Use the correct size/style car seat for infants and children
  4. Keep seats positioned at least 10 inches back from the steering wheel and dashboard
  5. Always wear a seat belt; in 80 percent of airbag-related deaths between 1990 and 2008, the victim was not wearing a seat belt
  6. Ensure that children are properly restrained to avoid any distractions to the driver
Injured in Car Crash? Call an Experienced California Car Accident Lawyer     

Airbags have saved numerous lives since their use in modern vehicles; however, they have also caused many severe injuries. Always follow airbag safety tips when driving or riding in a vehicle and ensure your passengers do as well. If you have an airbag injury, contact a California car accident attorney from Arash Law to learn more about your legal rights and options. 

We have more than two decades of experience serving California injury victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California.  Our seasoned personal injury lawyers have recovered over 200 million dollars for our clients. Contact Arash Law today by phone at (888) 488-1391 or online to receive your free case evaluation with an experienced California car accident lawyer from our law firm. You pay no upfront fees with our no-win, no-fee guarantee. 

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DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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