Air bags have revolutionized car safety since their introduction. Currently over half of all vehicles on the road have this safety feature and the majority of new vehicles also have passenger side or side curtain air bags . Air bags have been responsible for saving lives during accidents and combined with regular seatbelt use, an individual involved in an accident has a better chance walking away without serious injury than ever before. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 10,000 people are alive today because an air bag saved their life.
In order to understand how air bags work in a car, it is necessary to understand their role. First, air bags are safety devices that were created to deploy in a crash that involves the front end of the car. While technology has changed since their inception to include crashes involving the side of the car, the fact is, air bags are not meant to eject if a car is rear ended. Beginning in 1998, all new passenger cars were required to have air bags implemented in their construction, and this became standard in 1999 for all light trucks and SUVs.
While designed to save lives, it is also possible to be injured by an air bag when it is deployed because of the speed at which it is ejected. Some individuals who have been in accidents where one is deployed have experienced burns on their face, arms, or hands similar to a rug or a rope burn. This typically happens to individuals who are seated too closely to the air bag. In certain situations, death has occurred because of injury to the neck or chest, so it is important to always be positioned in the seat correctly. Drivers should be positioned more than 10 inches away from the steering wheel and other passengers should be secured with their backs against the seat and a seat belt securing them from moving forward.
Furthermore, children should always be secured properly in the back seat or in an approved car seat for vehicle use. Rear facing car seats should never be placed in the front seat of a car as the child could be injured from the impact received if a front seat air bag were to deploy. If it is necessary to put a child in the front seat of a car, make sure their seat is pushed back as far as it can go away from the dashboard and ensure they are wearing a seat belt. Be aware that NHTSA has required manufacturers to take procedures for turning air bags off or on. This should only be used if an individual is at risk for injury because of an air bag deployment.
Air bags have been responsible for saving many lives over the history of their use. However, you should not fail to take necessary precautions because you feel safe because of the air bag feature in your car. Seat belts should always be used, car seats should always be installed properly, and extra precaution should be taken if travelling long distances with pets and children. Realize that there have been instances where air bags have not worked when they have been needed, therefore, you must plan for your safety while traveling in a car at all times.