Car accidents are an unfortunate reality of modern life, but many lives have been saved thanks to airbags. Airbags are designed to deploy rapidly in the event of a car accident, cushioning the impact and preventing occupants from being thrown around the vehicle’s interior. 

However, while airbags are incredibly effective at reducing the severity of injuries in a crash, they can also cause their own injuries. 

In this blog, we will explore the most common airbag-related injuries, discuss what can go wrong with airbag sensors during deployment, and provide tips on how to prevent airbag-related injuries so you can stay safe on the road.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about airbag injuries. 

The Science Behind Airbags

Airbags are a crucial safety feature in modern automobiles that help reduce car crashes and their injuries. They work by deploying rapidly when a collision occurs to cushion the impact and protect the driver and passengers from hitting hard surfaces like the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield.

The science behind airbags is based on the principles of physics, specifically the laws of motion and energy conservation. For example, when a car crashes into an object, the vehicle and its occupants experience a sudden deceleration, which can cause severe injuries. The airbag system is designed to mitigate this deceleration by increasing the time it takes for the occupants to come to a stop.

The airbag system consists of three main components: the airbag itself, an inflation system, and a sensor system. 

The airbag is made of a lightweight, porous material that is folded and stored in the car’s steering wheel, dashboard, or side panels. 

The inflation system consists of a small explosive charge or gas generator triggered by the sensor system. When the crash sensor detects an impact, it sends a signal to the inflator, releasing a gas burst that rapidly inflates the airbag.

The speed at which the airbag inflates is critical to its effectiveness. If it inflates too slowly, it may not provide adequate protection. But if it inflates too quickly, it could cause injuries. Airbags are designed to inflate within 20-30 milliseconds of impact to ensure the proper inflation speed.

The sensor system that triggers the airbag is also critical to its effectiveness. Modern cars are equipped with various sensors to detect different types of crashes and adjust the airbag deployment accordingly. 

For example, some sensors can detect the angle of impact, the car’s speed, and the occupants’ position to determine the appropriate inflation force and angle. 

Older cars may not be equipped with these sensors, reducing the airbag’s effectiveness and increasing the potential for injury. For this reason, driving a modern vehicle with these sensors is highly recommended.

Proper Airbag Positioning and Maintenance

Proper airbag positioning is essential for minimizing the risk of injury during a crash. The driver and front passenger should always sit with their backs against the seat and their feet on the floor. 

They should also be positioned as far back from the airbag as possible while still being able to reach the pedals comfortably. This ensures the airbag will deploy in front of the occupant rather than directly into them.

It’s also important to properly maintain and inspect your airbags to ensure they function correctly. If your vehicle has a warning light that indicates an airbag problem, you should take it to a qualified mechanic as soon as possible. 

You should never attempt to repair or replace an airbag, as this can be dangerous and potentially fatal. Only trained professionals should work on airbag systems.

Another aspect of airbag maintenance is ensuring the cover is clean and free of obstructions. If the cover is dirty, it can prevent the airbag from deploying correctly. 

It’s also essential to avoid placing any objects, such as seat covers or other accessories, on the dashboard or near the airbag cover. These objects can become projectiles in the event of a crash and cause additional injuries.

Finally, it’s important to note that airbags are a one-time-use safety feature. Once an airbag has been deployed, it must be replaced. If you’ve been in a crash and your airbags have been deployed, have a qualified mechanic replace them before driving again.

By following these tips for proper airbag positioning and maintenance, you can help ensure that your airbags function correctly and minimize the risk of airbag-related injuries in the event of a crash.

Potential Risks of Airbag Deployment

Airbags are designed to deploy in a split second during a crash to protect occupants from serious injury or death. However, this process relies heavily on the accuracy and responsiveness of the airbag sensors. 

If the sensors fail or malfunction, the airbags may not deploy or deploy too late, putting occupants at risk of serious injury. Children and small adults are especially vulnerable to airbag-related injuries.

Several factors can cause airbag sensor failure, including damage to the sensors, electrical malfunctions, and software glitches. Things that can go wrong with the sensors include:

  • Injury from the airbag deploying too quickly.
  • Injury from the airbag popping out too early.
  • Injury from the driver’s or passengers’ heads being too close to the airbag.
  • Burns, abrasions, and contusions from the airbag deploying.
  • Chemicals or dust from the airbag causing respiratory or eye irritation.
  • Passengers not sitting correctly in the car getting hurt by the airbag.
  • Passengers with medical conditions sustaining chest injuries.
  • Airbag malfunction or failure hurting passengers.

Regular airbag system maintenance and inspection are crucial to ensure proper functioning and safety.

Most Common Airbag-Related Injuries

While airbags are an essential safety feature in modern vehicles, their rapid deployment can sometimes cause injuries. 

While serious injuries are rare, there are several common airbag-related injuries that drivers and passengers can sustain during a crash. In this section, we will explore the most common airbag-related injuries and provide tips on how to minimize these risks to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.

The most common airbag-related injuries include: 

  • Lung and airway irritation from the chemicals released when the airbag is deployed.
  • Abrasions and burns from how quickly the airbag deploys.
  • Lacerations.
  • Fractures and broken bones.
  • Internal injuries.
  • Head injuries, including concussion and traumatic brain injury.
  • Neck injuries, including whiplash.
  • Spinal cord injuries.
  • Eye injuries, including blindness.
  • Hearing loss and ear damage.
  • Burns from the airbag deploying too close to the person.
  • Emotional trauma and psychological distress.

Although it’s difficult to determine the distance between you and your airbag, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that drivers sit ten inches away from their steering wheel. 

And, despite the risk of these injuries, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that airbags and seatbelts combined reduce fatal injuries by 61 percent. So even with the risks of airbags, the benefits far outweigh them. 

What Can I Do If My Airbags Malfunction?

If you suspect your airbags have malfunctioned, it is important to take action immediately. The first step is to bring your vehicle to a certified mechanic or dealership for inspection and repair. Attempting to fix or replace the airbags yourself can be dangerous and should never be attempted. 

If you believe that your airbags have malfunctioned due to a manufacturing defect, you may be eligible for compensation or an airbag recall. You can check for current airbag recalls by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website or contacting your vehicle manufacturer directly.

Remember, airbags are an essential safety feature and should always be functioning properly to ensure the safety of you and your passengers on the road.

Future Developments in Airbag Safety

As technology advances, new and innovative airbag safety features are being developed to provide greater protection to vehicle occupants. Here are a few examples of future developments in airbag safety:

  1. Pedestrian airbags: In addition to protecting vehicle occupants, airbags may also protect pedestrians in the event of a collision. Pedestrian airbags are designed to deploy from the hood of the vehicle to cushion the impact and reduce the severity of injuries.
  2. External airbags: Like pedestrian airbags, external airbags are designed to protect the vehicle’s occupants in the event of a collision. However, instead of deploying from the interior of the vehicle, external airbags deploy from the exterior to absorb the impact and reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Smart airbags: Smart airbags use advanced sensors to determine the occupant’s position, size, and weight and adjust the airbag’s deployment accordingly. This helps to minimize the risk of injury to occupants of different sizes and weights.
  4. Rear-seat airbags: While front airbags are standard in most vehicles, rear-seat airbags are less common. However, they are becoming more prevalent as vehicles become safer overall. Rear-seat airbags are designed to protect rear-seat passengers in the event of a collision.
  5. Inflatable seat belts: Inflatable seat belts are designed to inflate like an airbag in the event of a collision, providing additional cushioning to the occupant’s chest and torso. This can help to reduce the risk of internal injuries in a crash.

These future developments in airbag safety have the potential to significantly reduce the risk of airbag injuries in the event of a collision. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more advanced airbag safety features in the future, ensuring our driving experiences become even safer.

Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson Can Help

A defective airbag is one of the worst things you can deal with, especially if you’re in a crash without it properly deploying. If you’ve suffered injuries due to a defective airbag, one of our experienced attorneys can help you receive damages for your injuries and compensation from the airbag or car manufacturer. 

The attorneys at Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson have well over 100 years of combined experience representing all types of personal injury victims. Let us help you today.

We represent clients throughout Utah County and West Jordan. Schedule your free case evaluation today by calling us at 801.500.4000 or filling out the form on our website. Let Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson help you today.