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Your husband recently received a letter from the dealership where he purchased his car, stating that he needed to bring it in due to an immediate airbag recall. Although you love the man, he isn’t exactly trustworthy when it comes to getting things fixed—you currently have two chairs, a table, and your son’s bike in pieces out in the garage. Therefore, being the paranoid safety wife that you are, you decided to take his car in yourself to get it fixed and find out about the problem.

When you arrived at the dealership you produced the letter and told the mechanic that you were here because of a recalled airbag. He immediately moved your car into the workshop and told you to wait inside for a representative. You calmly sat down and waited. After a few moments, a representative came out with some paperwork and began to explain to you the issue with the airbag.

He told you that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at the behest of the United States Congress, has urged the manufacturer of these specific bags to initiate a nationwide recall. Therefore, the dealership will be replacing your airbag with one that is up to code. Naturally, out of curiosity, you asked him what the reason was for the recall. After several moments of hesitation, he handed you a report that stated that Takata airbags have caused multiple injuries and several deaths as a result of a defective inflator. As you read, you discovered that the explosion which is meant to inflate the bag had caused multiple incidents of sheering metal from the column and hurtling the shrapnel toward drivers.

You put the report down as all the color drained from your face. You, your husband, and your eldest daughter had been driving that car with the assumption that the safety features would actually keep you safe, not act as a bomb. While you sat there, trying not to think about all the things that could have happened, you began wondering about all the things you can do to prevent these types of injuries. Although following through with the recall is a huge step, you know that airbags can still cause damage. So what can you and your family do to avoid harm?

Airbag Safety

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, nearly 20 people are killed as a result of airbag deployment, while countless others are injured on an annual basis. Reports performed by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Safety Council claim that airbags save over 1,000 people a year. However, the fact that they deploy at upwards of 200 mph, and in some cases deploy incorrectly, can cause serious harm to drivers and passengers alike.

This is why it is important to not only know your risks, but know how to protect against them. The next time you get in the front seat of a car, or put your child in the front seat, remember the following safety precautions to help avoid an airbag injury: 

  • Always wear seat belts. Not only will a seat belt prevent you from being ejected from the car, but the shoulder strap will keep you from slamming into the airbag as it deploys. The belt will buy you precious seconds for the airbag to deploy and begin to slightly deflate before you come in contact with it. These precious seconds could be the difference between getting hit in the face with a hundred pounds’ worth of pressure coming toward you at 200 mph, versus a few pounds of pressure already beginning to deflate.    
  • Sit at least 10 inches back from the hub of the steering wheel. Not only will this increase the time it’ll take for you to hit the wheel and bag, but it will also provide enough room for the bag to fully deploy without punching you in the face and chest.
  • Aim the airbag at your chest, not at your head. Your chest can take a lot more force, and dissipate that force a lot more evenly than your skull and neck. If all the force is exerted toward your head, you run the risk of skull and brain damage, neck injury, and spinal cord damage. Although your chest may bruise, the injury will be far less than if hit in the head.
  • Transport children (1 to 13 years old) safely. Since children are inherently smaller than adults, their stature puts them in the direct line of fire for an airbag to deploy. This is why older children should make sure they are seated in the back and wearing their seat belts, while smaller children (up to age seven) should always be in safety or booster seats. Children’s bones are much more fragile and run the risk of multiple injuries if struck by an airbag. Always follow child safety and booster seat instructions—and keep them in the back to avoid frontal airbag issues. Transport children in the front seat only when absolutely necessary and only with the seat pushed as far back as it can go and the airbag turned off, if possible.
  • Recline the seat slightly (for shorter drivers). Many newer airbags take into account seating position and deploy with less force if an occupant is sitting close. However, if you need to recline the seat slightly in order to achieve the 10 inch minimum, do so for your own safety.
  • Judge driving safety if pregnant. Women in the late stages of pregnancy may not be able to get their abdomens far enough away from the steering wheel to be safe and should avoid driving whenever possible. If they must drive, the combination of properly positioned seat belts and airbags offer the best protection.

Your Thoughts?

Do you think these safety measures are enough? Should the manufacturers of airbags have higher standards for safety? Let us know your thoughts by leaving your opinions and questions in the comment section. We’d love to know your opinions as well as any personal experience you may have had with an airbag injury. Let us help you by opening up to us and our clients. You never know what kind of advice you could receive, or how it may help. We strive to help those who are injured...that includes you. Leave a comment or contact us today for a free consultation. You’ll be glad that you did.

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