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Drivers injured by exploding airbags, is it driver negligence?

Posted by David Nemeroff | Nov 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

That's what the car manufactures are claiming. When contacted by car owners regarding this issue, dealers and manufacturers are saying the increasing numbers of spontaneous deployment of airbags are caused by driver error? I ask myself, how this can be.

Airbags and seat belts have been the symbol of safety for many Americans. It has been reported over and over, that since frontal air bags have been installed in passenger cars as a safety feature thousands of lives have been saved. In 1998, the federal government mandated that this safety feature be required on all passenger vehicles. Automobile airbags were designed with safety in mind. Now hundreds of drivers are reporting just the opposite. Aairbags are exploding without warning and injuring car occupants. Dealers are claiming that drivers possibly hit a pot hole or debris on the road. In order for an airbag to prevent an injury, it must inflate quickly after the car crash. The airbag needs to be fully inflated by the time the passenger reaches the tip of its outer surface. If the airbag deploys too slow, this increases the risk of injury to the passenger.

The airbag was designed to deploy in frontal impact car collisions. The test rates for airbag deployment are at a greater threshold than actual accident conditions. Air bags are tested for frontal and some side impact. As we know the everyday car accident can happen from any angle. Long story short, the typical car crash does not distribute even crash force among the front of the vehicle. One can ask, how does an airbag sensors work? They measure vehicle deceleration. Experts argue that this in fact is not an accurate predictor of whether an airbag should have deployed. Airbags deploy due to a variety of causes. They can deploy when the car's undercarriage hits a low object protruding from the roadway. Hitting potholes is a common cause of airbag deployment.

Car manufacturers have developed triggering algorithms aimed at preventing false deployments of airbags. These algorithms are aimed to reduce unnecessary deployments of airbags. They are also striving to adapt the deployment speed to the crash conditions. Besides the use of algorithms, advanced technologies are being implemented that will tailor airbag deployment to different causative factors. Those factors can include the severity of the car crash, the size and posture of the vehicle passenger, proper seat belt usage, and the distance the occupant is to the airbag.

Even though they are designed as a safety feature, an airbags can seriously injure and kill vehicle passengers. Airbags were designed as an adjunct safety feature for the seatbelt. In order for an airbag to provide additional crash protection for passengers not wearing seat belts, they were designed to deploy with greater force than airbags. It was reported by the U S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the use of both frontal airbags and lap/shoulder belts reduces the risk of traumatic brain injury or head injury and spinal cord injury in an auto accident by over 80 percent.

The first car crash fatality attributed to an airbag was reported in 1990. By 2005, deaths related to airbags had declined, with no adult deaths and two child death rates over the next decade deaths related to airbags declined dramatically. Injuries can result from unconscious drivers slumping over the steering wheel, improper use of seat belts or no seat belt use, or drivers sitting too close to the steering wheel.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported over 170 deaths or fatalities caused by air bags from 1990 to 2000. Over 100 of the fatalities were children. As a Chicago injury lawyer, I know that studies show that children are safer in the back seat, with or without an airbag. When frontal airbags deploy they do so with great force. That tremendous force usually at a speed of up to 100 mph can cause serious or fatal injuries to children. Remember that sitting too close to the steering wheel or dashboard should be avoided by all car occupants.

According to the NHTSA you should follow the recommendations below:

  • Always wear a seat belt, shoulder harness and lap belts This is the number one safety devise for automobiles.
  • Children should always ride in the back seat. Children should be secured in a child safety seat that is approved for their age and size. NHTSA recommends the safest position for a child safety seat is in the middle of the back seat.
  • Sit at least 10 inches from the driver's breastbone to the middle or center of the steering wheel.

Some of these simple safety measures may save your life!

About the Author

David Nemeroff

In January 2012, David Nemeroff was voted one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the entire state of Illinois (out of 83,000 lawyers) by Super Lawyers Magazine...

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