Problems Sometimes Accompany Airbag Deployment During Auto Accidents
Introduced in the U.S. in the mid-1970s, airbags for passenger cars are now considered one of the most important safety innovations of recent decades.
Providing crucial cushioning for those involved in a crash, front airbags have been required in all new passenger vehicles since the 1999 model year and have been found to reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29 percent. According to a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) report, side airbags lower an SUV driver’s risk of death by 52 percent.
But airbags can also have negative consequences.
How do airbags work?
Airbags are safety devices that are designed to deploy during an auto accident to protect the vehicle’s occupants. They are typically located in the steering wheel for the driver, the dashboard for the front-seat passenger, and potentially in the doors for side-impact collisions.
Engineers are continually finding new ways to utilize airbags, including:
- Rear-window curtain airbags intended to protect back seat passengers during rear-end accidents
- Front-center airbags to prevent drivers and front-seat passengers from colliding with each other during an accident
- Inflatable safety belts designed to reduce rear-seat chest injuries
- Combination airbags that deploy from the seatback to protect the head and torso
- Panoramic sunroof airbags intended to keep vehicle occupants from being ejected through sunroofs
- Seat cushion airbags designed to protect an occupant’s chest and abdomen
- External hood airbags to protect pedestrians.
When an accident is detected, a crash sensor triggers the igniter in the airbag to fill the airbag with gas and deploy. Although airbags save lives and lessen the severity of certain injuries, they are designed to work with seat belts, not in place of them, and they can also cause some injuries, even when deployed appropriately.
The list of common airbag injuries is long.
Some of the injuries sustained by drivers and front-seat passengers due to the deployment of airbags include:
- Eye injuries
- Burns to the hands, arms, and chest
- Wrist injuries
- Skull, rib cage, face, arm, and wrist fractures
- Cervical spine injuries
- Sprained fingers
- Internal bleeding
- Contusions to the arms, knees, chest, face, and internal organs
- Hearing loss due to trauma
- Abrasions to the upper body, including the arms, chest, and face
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Dermatitis of the skin
- Respiratory issues — asthma attacks, coughing, and throat irritations — from the chemicals released upon airbag deployment
- Fetal injury in pregnant women.
The types of airbag injuries are far-reaching, and any one can be severe, resulting in chronic stress, disability, and even death.
What You Can Do to Prevent Damage
While airbag deployment can result in serious injury, there are some precautions that can help you minimize or avoid damage:
- Always wear a seatbelt. In 80 percent of the airbag-related deaths occurring between 1990 and 2008, the victim was not wearing a seat belt.
- Children under 12 should ride in the backseat if at all possible.
- Use the proper car seat relative to your child’s height and weight.
- Keep seats positioned a minimum of 10 inches back from the airbag deployment area of the vehicle.
- Keep children properly restrained and seated in the proper position at all times.
If you sustained serious airbag injuries in a Colorado auto accident, contact personal injury attorney Dan Rosen to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.