Modern vehicles are outfitted with several standard safety features designed to prevent collisions, reduce the severity of a wreck, or protect occupants in the vehicle if they crash.
Blind-spot mirrors, seat belts, automatic emergency braking systems, and adaptive cruise control are common features. Perhaps the most important safety feature in a vehicle is airbags, which expand on impact to protect passengers from hitting the inside parts of a car, including doors, windows, and the dashboard.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that front airbags saved more than 50,000 lives between 1987 and 2017. Today, we’re taking a closer look at airbag technology, how it protects drivers and passengers, and what happens if the airbags don’t deploy as designed.
How Do Airbags Work?
Airbags are supplemental protection designed to work with the other vehicle safety features if a crash happens. They work best when occupants are wearing their seatbelts properly. Both front and side airbags deploy in a moderate or severe car accident and may deploy in a minor collision, depending on the impact point of the crash.
Federal law requires front airbags to be installed in all vehicles and controlled by an electronic control unit. On impact, it signals an igniter to trigger a chemical reaction producing a harmless gas and thus inflating the airbag in about 1/20th of a second.
Some cars have side airbags, which operate the same way and mainly protect the head and chest. Side airbags inflate even faster because there’s less space between the object striking the car and the passengers.
Tips for Better Airbag Safety
Although you can’t control where and when airbags deploy, you can take a few proactive steps to ensure that your airbags are as protective as possible when they do deploy:
- Wear your seatbelt to reduce the chances of injuries from the airbags
- Maintain enough distance from the steering wheel — at least ten inches
- Children under 13 should always ride in the backseat
- Smaller children should be in an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat
- Do not allow front passengers to rest their legs on the dashboard, as they can be severely hurt if the airbags deploy onto their legs
Airbags can only be deployed once, so if you’re having your vehicle repaired after an accident in which the airbags deployed, make sure to have a certified professional reinstall new ones.
How Does Airbag Deployment Failure Happen?
Even if you take precautions to ensure that you’re protected when airbags deploy, there is still a chance that they may not deploy in a wreck.
For example, airbags aren’t intended to deploy in every kind of crash. They activate depending on the characteristics of the crash and where the crash sensor locations are in a specific vehicle.
The seatbelts could provide enough protection in a mild or moderate crash, and the airbags wouldn’t deploy. Or, in some cases, a car’s system will automatically turn off front airbags on the passenger side if the system detects the presence of a child or smaller-statured person in the seat.
Defective Airbags or Improper Airbag Installment
Other times, however, the airbags themselves can be defective and not deploy when necessary. This could be due to a design flaw in the vehicle or a problem with the manufacturing process.
In these cases, the car manufacturer could be liable for damages because they failed to issue a safe, properly working consumer product.
Or, if you’ve purchased a secondhand vehicle whose airbags were previously deployed and weren’t properly reinstalled, the mechanic may share some of the liability for any injuries you and your passengers suffer.
Airbags are designed to protect but work best when the proper precautions are taken — including defensive driving.
Contact the Houston Car Accident Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help
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