Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Safe are the Airbags in Your Car?

U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Warning

Since their invention in the 1950s, through their development during the 1970s and added as a required feature in the 1980s, airbags have become an important factor in decreasing injuries of those involved in automotive accidents. Airbags function as supplemental safety devices designed to work with seat belts to minimize injuries in car accidents. In theory, airbags reduce the chance that the occupant of a vehicle's upper body or head will strike the vehicle's interior or windshield during a crash, thus decreasing the severity of injury.

But, are the air bags in your car really safe? Will they deploy in the event of a collision, or will they actually cause further injury? That question has been raised due to the increase in faulty air bag deployment caused by improper installation of airbags in a number of independent auto repair shops in the past few years.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently warned the public that they have a concern involving the purchase and installation of a significant number of potentially faulty air bags by these smaller repair shops. Soon the DOT will announce a process for the public to follow to determine if their vehicle may be at risk. That process may involve questions for insurers who paid claims for air bag replacements. 

The DOT estimates less than one tenth of one percent of all vehicles may be affected, and they have determined that this problem is limited to within the last three years.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has determined that air bags must be used correctly or injury or death can result. Children are especially vulnerable to injury or death from airbags. The NHTSA estimates that about 300 people, including 180 children, have been killed because of air bags. Countless others have sustained injuries.


NHTSA Findings:

• Passenger-side air bags, as they are currently designed, are not acceptable as a protective device for children positioned in front of them and can kill or critically injure these children in accidents that would have been survivable had the air bag not deployed.
 • The number of children killed and critically injured in accidents similar to those investigated for the Board’s study will continue to increase unless immediate action is first taken to determine the benefits of passenger-side air bags, as currently designed.

• Air bags are being designed, because of certification testing requirements, primarily to protect unbelted rather than belted vehicle occupants even though the air bags are promoted as supplemental restraint systems and the majority of motor vehicle occupants now use seatbelts.
• In 9 of the 13 accidents investigated for this study in which there were collisions with other vehicles and passenger-side air bag deployment, the change in velocity was less than 20 mph, yet 5 of the 9 children in the right front passenger seats in these accidents sustained serious, critical, or fatal injuries from contact with the passenger-side air bag (2 of the 5 children were in rear-facing child restraint systems).

If you have had repairs done on your vehicle in the last three years that involved the installation or repair of airbags, it is imperative that you have the devices checked out to make sure they will work properly in the event of an accident. 

You can find more information at http://www.nhtsa.gov/