Airbag Dangers

Presented by Scott C. Murray, Esq.

Many drivers know they have airbags in their car, but most do not know how the airbags really work.

Airbags are designed to work together with seat belts to provide an extra level of protection to the occupants of the car.

Airbag systems have two basic parts – First, there are the impact sensors located near the front of the vehicle, and then there is airbag unit itself. When the impact sensors are tripped based on a rapid deceleration of the vehicle, it sends a signal to the airbag unit, which then inflates the airbag with an explosive charge. The airbag deploys at more than 200 MPH.

While the air bag has been an incredible safety device and has undoubtedly saved thousands of lives since its invention; it can also be a killer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that since 1990, air bag deployment has killed 227 people in low-severity crashes, including 76 drivers, 119 children, and 22 babies. In these types of crashes, the vehicle occupants would have lived if the air bag had not deployed. In other words, it was the airbag that actually caused their deaths.

The impact from an airbag can cause serious and permanent injuries and or even death. Typical injuries from an airbags can include neck and spinal cord injuries, head injuries, blindness, facial cuts and bruising, chest injuries, and chemical burns.

While airbags are generally a good thing, there are some potential problems as well.  The most common litigation issue is a claim that the air bag was defectively designed or manufactured or failed to include appropriate instructions or warnings regarding the use of the air bag. For instance, most airbags warn that children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat because children are vulnerable to injury from airbags. In a crash, the air bag comes out of the dashboard with its intended force directed at an adult’s chest area, but if a child is there, the force is often directed at the level where the child’s head would be and that can cause a significant head or spinal cord injury.

Another concern is that sometimes, vehicle drivers and passengers are sitting too close to the airbag when it deploys. This can be because they are of a smaller statute and have the seat moved up quite a bit, or because they are not wearing their seatbelt, sometimes occupants are too close to the airbag and are thrown forward during pre-crash braking. Remember, airbags are never a substitute for seat belts!

To reduce your risk of an air bag injury – always wear your seatbelt; move your seat back as far as you can while still being able to drive comfortably; slightly recline the back of your seat without impairing your visibility; and tilt your steering wheel downward if you are able, which points the airbag at your chest and not your head and face.

If you have any questions regarding airbag safety or defective airbags, please contact me at (561) 366-9099 or by email at