When airbags were introduced, car makers and safety advocates hailed it as a seminal moment in vehicle safety, comparing them to the advent of seatbelts in the 1970s.
While airbags have helped reduce the physical impacts of car collisions, they do carry some danger.
Anyone with a newborn is certainly, or at least should be, aware that their child should be seated in the back of the vehicle. If they must sit in the front (…like in a single-cab pickup), the airbag should be disabled. Elderly folks too have to be careful around airbags since the impact of one could prove devastating.
Even though airbags have helped make cars safer, they’ve also proved to be very dangerous in the event they malfunction.
“We’ve seen a lot of cases where the person has a fender bender, the airbag goes off and hits them in the face, and they’ve lost an eye,” explains Raymond Bodiford, senior partner at the Bodiford Law Group in Orlando, Florida.
Below are some of the common malfunctions that can occur with an airbag:
- Failure to deploy
- Accidental deployment
- Late deployment
While many may be familiar with the first two types of malfunctions, the third can pose serious risks as well. Late deployment basically means the airbag deploys after the accident has occurred.
“It can actually cause additional damage because the force of the accident has usually positioned the occupant too close to the airbag at the time it deploys,” explains Bodiford.
One example of defective airbags can be found in Honda vehicles built between 2001 and 2003. Starting in 2008, thousands of Honda vehicles were recalled because of a defective airbag inflator on the driver’s side. This defect was said to have caused 12 injuries and at least one death.
Since the initial recall, Honda has expanded it to include various Accord, Civic, Odyssey, CR-V, Pilot and Acura models. The most recent recall was issued by the company on December 2, 2011.
Most injuries from airbags occur in the chest area since it deploys at over 100 mph. Deploying airbags though can also cause burns. More serious injuries can occur in the neck area if the driver/passenger is of a certain height.
Although rare, deploying airbags can cause fatality. From 1990-2000, over 175 fatalities from airbags were reported by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. The agency though estimates that of the approximately 3.3 million airbag deployments, more than 6,377 lives have been saved and countless injuries prevented.