Your car is a technological marvel, with safety features that you probably do not even know that it has. Many newer cars are like computers on wheels, that not only protect you in the event of an accident, but that actively take measures to avoid a crash from happening in the first place.
Despite these advancements, one of the most important safety features in your vehicle is one that is not the newest. We are talking about the air bag that comes out of your steering wheel, and in some cars, the driver’s side and even side windows as well, when it senses the impact from an accident.
Occupants Should Take Safety Precautions
There is no doubt that airbags save lives and that whatever harm they cause is far outweighed by the good that they do. But airbags can do serious harm when they deploy improperly.
A lot of publicity has been given to airbags that improperly deploy, and a number of product liability lawsuits have been filed when airbags deploy when they are not supposed to. But even airbags that properly and correctly deploy can cause injuries. Sometimes occupants of vehicles make the dangers of an airbag even worse.
A recent article points out a habit of many car passengers that should be avoided in order to prevent unnecessary injury when an airbag deploys. Passengers who put or rest their feet up on the car’s dashboard put themselves at serious risk for injury.
The article tells the story of a Georgia woman who was riding as a passenger with a foot on the dashboard. She later stated that she was aware of the risk, but believed that she would be able to put her feet down if she saw an accident was imminent. Sure enough, she was involved in an accident, and when her airbag deployed, the force of the bag’s deployment sent her foot into her face, breaking her nose, femur, ankle and arm. She has had several surgeries and still does not walk at a fully functional level.
As bad as that is, the woman only had one foot on the dashboard when the accident happened. There is no telling how much worse it would have been had she had both feet up, or been in a position where her knees were directly in front of her face.
Seat Belts Must Be Worn
There are other ways to be injured by an airbag. Airbags are designed to protect even those who do not wear seat belts, and an airbag can often lessen injuries to occupants who are not wearing seatbelts.
Often, the failure to wear a seatbelt results in the occupant’s body being out of position when the bag deploys. For example, the occupant may slide lower than the bag, and hit it face first. Or, the occupant may be tossed into the air, or to the side, causing the bag to break limbs. These are examples of how not wearing a seatbelt can make a car accident much worse than it has to be.
Airbags are Amazingly Powerful
Airbags are explosions that happen inside your car, albeit controlled ones. They must be powerful to counteract the forces of the accident and protect your body quicker than your brain can even react.
Some estimate that an airbag is set to deploy just 8 to 40 milliseconds after impact. If you think that you would have time to avoid an airbag, or react faster than it does, remember that a human takes about 55 milliseconds just to blink an eye.
Airbags do not deploy completely in an accident, but rather, will let small amounts of air out, so that the occupants face does not hit a brick wall. Many advanced bags also take into account the driver’s size, or distance from the steering wheel or dashboard. To prevent bags from deploying when a car simply drives over a pothole or hits a parking bumper, manufacturers conduct rigorous testing and calibrate airbag sensors carefully.
One fire department in Tennessee has warned people that if the airbag deploys with feet on the dashboard, knees could literally break occupants’ eye sockets. Officials equate the airbag’s power to that of a loaded gun. Although hardly a scientific experiment, one youtube video even shows a 40 pound steel bar moved by an airbag with such force that it goes through the front window.
Videos like that one can be found around the internet, showing airbags deploying with such power that they toss around large objects like they weigh nothing.
Be Safe With an Airbag in the Car
Other than wearing a seatbelt, there are other ways to avoid injury from an airbag. Occupants should try to keep as much distance between themselves and the steering wheel or dashboard as possible. This can often be a challenge for shorter occupants, or those with shorter limbs who must sit closer to the steering wheel.
Always keep both hands on the steering wheel. This can avoid an airbag from flinging a limb into your face, or worse, breaking a limb.
If you have been injured in a car accident there can be a number of causes, and parts of your car like the airbag may need to be investigated by an expert. Contact Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation to discuss your car accident injury case.