The Dangers of Car Airbags
Car airbags have become standard equipment on virtually every make and model of vehicle available. Airbags are added for safety, so people are generally comfortable with them, but every driver should familiarize themselves with the potential dangers of them.
How Airbags Work
Many drivers aren’t familiar with the process of airbag deployment, and the systems that make them work. Airbag systems are comprised of two basic parts: an impact sensor, and the airbag unit itself. When the impact sensor is tripped in an accident, it sends a signal to the airbag unit, which actually inflates the airbag with an explosive charge. The airbag helps to prevent passengers from impacting the dash or windshield in a collision, as well as reducing the force of the impact.
Airbags and Children
One thing that every parent should know is the dangers that airbags pose to children. Any child in a car seat is very vulnerable to injury from airbags. Very young children riding in rear-facing car seats are at the most risk for injury from SRS systems. The explosive force of the airbag can break the car seat or simply push on it with enough force to cause severe injury or death. Children in forward-facing car seats are at risk from airbag injury too, since these types of seats tend to place the child farther forward in the seat than an adult would normally sit. In reality, any child under 10 should never sit in a seat equipped with an SRS system; the potential for injury is simply too great. In addition, recent studies have also concluded that airbags may pose a danger for young teens as well. For these reasons, it’s important for parents to keep in mind that the back seat is always the best place for kids of any age.
People of exceptional size or weight should be wary about the potential dangers of airbags. This includes people of higher and lower than average weight and height. Since airbags are designed for an “average” size passenger, people that are especially big or small could be injured when airbags deploy.
You should always be diligent about checking your vehicle for safety and maintenance recalls. SRS systems are just as vulnerable to malfunction as any other system on your vehicle, but malfunctions in these systems are much more likely to cause driver or passenger injury than others. Several vehicles have had airbag related recalls in recent years. A good example is the Scion TC, whose side curtain airbags could potentially deploy if the door was closed with too much force.
There are a variety of other concerns that have been raised about SRS airbag systems. Including the potential for injury from another object that is between the airbag and the passenger, chest injury from "shotgun impact" and chemical danger from the propellants used to attain the airbag’s inflation speed. It's generally agreed that these potential dangers are outweighed by the safety benefits of airbags.
If you have any cause for concern about your vehicle’s SRS system, your dealership is the best place to go with questions. They will have the most up-to -date information about your vehicle and its safety systems. If you feel that your vehicle’s airbags pose a high risk for injury to yourself or your passengers, an airbag disabling switch can be installed, although it is best to consult with your dealership first.