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Airbags: Safety Device Or Safety Hazard

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Airbags: Safety Device Or Safety Hazard

Peter Kent
22 December 2007

Drive, she said. Get behind the wheel of a car or SUV and you probably have many things on your mind. Airbags is not one of them.

Most of us automatically trust that the brand of car we purchased whether new or used will transport us from one place to another. Airbags are just not under scrutiny. Since airbags are invisible, we put them out of sight, out of mind until an airbag deploys when we drive over a bump; slam the door too hard; or an airbag fails to deploy when we're in an accident and need it most; or when the airbag does deploy, we or our children and other passengers are gravely injured.

Now if you haven't thought about airbags before -- here are a few things to consider: Airbags detonate with around 2,000 pounds of force at speeds that can exceed 200 miles per hour. Airbags were developed for the average 5-foot 8-inch, 180-pound male. If you're shorter and heavier or shorter and weigh less or taller and heavier and sit closer to the steering wheel; you will have to take your chances. Hopefully, you don't have a heart condition or osteoporosis as an exploding airbag can be fatal.

What vehicles have been recalled for airbags?

You name it and it most likely has been recalled. Since 1997, at least 3,000,000 vehicles have been recalled due to airbag related problems with BMW 3-series, Chevrolet Silverado, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Focus, Scion TC, Nissan 350Z, 720,000 GM recalls, Toyota Camry 2007, Saturn, and Volvo.

Of course, airbag problems are not detected until it's too late.

What are injuries sustained by airbags?

Though rare, serious or fatal injuries can occur when the driver or passenger is very close to or in direct contact with an airbag module when the airbag deploys. Brain injuries can happen to unconscious drivers who slump over the steering wheel or improperly restrained occupants who slide forward in the seat during pre-crash braking, and even properly restrained drivers who sit too close to the steering wheel. Side-impact crashes are three times more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury than people involved in head-on or other types of collisions. Brain injuries from side-impact crashes are usually more severe.

Crashes on the side of a vehicle cause 10,000 deaths each year in the United States.

Data came from real accidents, rather than from crash tests with dummies. The difference is critical because it's difficult to accurately simulate a brain injury in a dummy. One of the most common causes of damage to the brain is trauma from a blow during a car crash.

Other airbag injuries from being hit by an airbag or exposed to its contents include eye injuries such as blunt trauma to the eye causing corneal abrasions, sub-retinal hemorrhage, blurred vision, retinal detachment. Chemical injuries include burns to the face and other parts of the body as well as breathing and asthma problems gases emitted from the airbag. Facial scarring may be caused when by an exploding airbag driving or grinding broken glass into the victim's face or upper body.

What can you do about an airbag complaint?

As a consumer you have the right to file an airbag complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The complaint information will be entered into NHTSA's vehicle owner's complaint database and used in conjunction with other complaints to determine if a safety-related defect trend exists.

Do you have an airbag failure lawsuit?

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by an airbag or a family member has died from an airbag injury, contacting a law firm about filing an airbag lawsuit is the sensible thing to do.

The Philadelphia Lawyers at the Anapol Schwartz Law Firm,on the web at http://www.anapolschwartz.com/, has offices in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ask about a free airbag personal injury or wrongful death consultation. To learn if you have an airbag failure lawsuit, contact any of the attorneys at Anapol Schwartz, at 866-735-2792 and is located at 1710 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

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