Crash! Your car just smashed into the car right in front of you at a speed of 35 mph. The whole front of your car is smashed but luckily your head isn’t, thanks to the airbag deploying. This scenario happened over 2.9 million times through August, 1998. Airbags significantly reduce the risk of being killed in a crash. The risk of being killed, if you have your seatbelt on, is reduced by 26% and 32% if you don’t have a belt on and the airbag goes off. Airbags also reduce the risk of serious head injuries by 75% if used with a shoulder and lap belt.
Yes, airbags save lives, but they have also been known to seriously hurt or kill people, especially children. Since 1990, about 113 deaths have been caused by airbags inflating in not serious accidents. 51 of these deaths were children, most of whom were not using a seat belt. Small children and airbags don’t mix. Children shouldn’t be in the front seat because the force of the airbag is usually too much for them. Never put a rear facing child seat in the front seat of the car. If the airbag goes off, the seat will be pushed forward and the child may get squeezed between the back of the seat and the airbag. Children are less likely to be killed in a crash if they are in the back seat.
If someone must put a child in the front seat, they may want to have an on/off switch for the airbag installed on the passenger side. On/off switches are used to prevent the airbag from going off in an accident, but they aren’t recommended for most people. You only need an airbag switch on the driver’s side if your legs are too short to reach the pedals and have your torso 10 inches away from the steering wheel. Passenger side switches should only be used if you always have to have a small child or infant sit in the front seat because they have a medical problem and need to be watched constantly. Airbag switches can be used incorrectly. You can forget to turn the airbag back on and jeopardize the safety of yourself (the driver) or the passenger.
Most people won’t need an on/off switch because there is a proper and improper way to sit when you are driving. You should always sit 10 or more inches away from the steering wheel. The farther away from the wheel you sit, the less force the airbag will hit you with. Always use seatbelts. Airbags and seatbelts work together to provide maximum safety. Recline the seat back and tilt the steering wheel down a little. By having the steering wheel face downward it makes the airbag open into your chest area instead of your face.
This position provides a safe margin from the airbag. There have also been many new changes in airbags to make them safer. Car companies are designing airbags to deploy with less force so they don’t hurt as many people. Companies are also finding new places to put airbags. BMW just announced a couple of months ago that they are going to start installing airbags in upper parts of the car’s inside. These airbags will protect the peoples’ heads from hitting the windows in side impacts. Volvo is also going to install similar systems in their cars later in the year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that these side impact airbag systems could save about 600 people each year.
Because of the advancements in technology, car companies are able to design safer cars and make driving a safer experience. Still, you should always wear your seatbelt when you go out, even if it’s only for a short distance. Most accidents happen less than 10 miles from home. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.