Do Airbag Benefits Outweigh Their Risks?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 30,000 people have been saved by frontal and side airbags. Estimates suggest that the combination of an airbag plus a lap and shoulder belt reduces the risk of death by 61 percent (compared with a 50 percent reduction for seat belts alone). Side airbags are estimated to have reduced the driver's risk of death by 37 percent. Even though these results are encouraging, airbags can also be dangerous.

Benefits vs. Risks

Although the purpose of airbags is to prevent serious collision and impact injuries, the NHTSA has found that in some situations, they can cause more harm than good. In 2014 more than 2,000 injuries and deaths occurred as a result of defective and problematic airbags. However, even pristine airbags can have their risks. These include minor to severe bruising, deployment force injuries, defect injuries, and the occasional fatality due to mishandling, user negligence, and manufacturer defects.

However, even though the potential risks are significant, the benefits of airbags may still outweigh them. These benefits include:

  • A 37 percent increase in protection from slamming into the hard steering wheel. Although airbags aren’t soft and pillow-like, they do provide some support in which to ease the forward momentum of your body from striking the steering wheel or dashboard in a collision.
  • Reduced risk of serious head trauma. Since the steering wheel is placed in front of your chest and is generally angled upward, the force of a collision can drive your neck and head forcefully into the steering column, causing massive head trauma. An airbag prevents this disastrous collision.
  • Reduced risk of serious whiplash and spinal problems from the impact force. As the result of the bag coming toward you as the collision force causes you to propel forward, it reduces the amount of space in which your head, neck, and spine can is whipped forward, thus decreasing painful whiplash and associative injuries.
  • Helps prevent forced ejection from the car. An airbag helps provide an additional barrier to keep you inside the car during a collision instead of being ejected.
  • Lowers insurance premiums. Since airbags are considered a reasonable safety feature, making sure your car is equipped with them will help lower your insurance premiums.

Weighing the Results

Perfect airbags can still run the risk of causing injuries, and unknown airbag defects could potentially put your life at risk. However, the fact of the matter is that not having an airbag drastically increases your injury and fatality risks. So which would you prefer? Potential risks, or certain risks? Fortunately, there is a third option—potential risks with added precautions.

Considering how vehicles are required to have airbags as a safety feature, you don’t really have the choice to put yourself at certain risk. However, you do have a choice to protect yourself from potential danger by following airbag safety guidelines—by following the guidelines and making sure that if you receive a recall notice you follow up on it.

Need more information on airbag injuries or claims? Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll be happy to discuss your legal options for compensation.