Airbags are one of those omnipresent safety features in modern cars that most of us probably don’t even think about. You might have airbags just in the front seat, but some vehicles have airbags practically everywhere! There are curtain airbags, knee airbags, and even inflatable seatbelts that act like airbags. Many vehicles, in fact, come with 10 or more airbags. Are all those airbags really keeping us safe, or giving us a false sense of security? And how much do you really know about airbags?
- Airbags do a great job of keeping people safe. According to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), frontal airbags have reduced driver fatalities by 29 percent. What’s more, those front-seat airbags reduce the risk of fatality by 32 percent for front-seat passengers age 13 and older. Most new cars have frontal airbags, side torso airbags, and side curtain airbags.
- Many modern cars have airbags that go far beyond protecting the upper bodies of the driver and front-seat passenger. Knee airbags under the dash protect occupants from a lower leg injury, and middle airbags deploy between driver and passenger to provide them with support in a side-impact accident as well as keeping them from knocking into each other in a crash. Rear curtain and seatbelt airbags help lessen the severity of injuries suffered by passengers in the back seat.
- Airbags can be painful, even though they’re protective. Airbags keep your body from hitting hard things like the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, windows, and doors. However, the force of the airbag inflating can cause you to feel like you’ve been kicked in the face and chest. It’s not uncommon for airbags to cause injuries like broken bones or abrasions, though those injuries are typically less serious than injuries you’d sustain from the crash if you didn’t have airbags.
- Airbags are much more advanced than they were when first mandated. Because injuries from airbags used to sometimes be severe and, in some cases, even fatal, auto manufacturers have come up with solutions to make airbags safer by deploying them with less force. Today’s vehicles are equipped with advanced frontal airbags, which can detect whether they need to deploy at full or reduced force, or whether they don’t need to deploy at all. They were designed to reduce the risk of injury to children and shorter adults. Some airbags have special vents that use the driver’s forward momentum to push gas from the inflated bag. This makes the impact less harsh. Frontal airbags are the ones that have had issues with injuries, though. Side and rear airbags are safe for children, as long as they’re properly seated and buckled in. However, car seat manufacturers do not recommend using an inflatable seatbelt with a car seat. There’s no evidence that this could be dangerous, it just hasn’t been well tested.
- An accident that leads to airbags deploying is likely to total your car. This depends on the value of the car, of course, but if it’s been in a wreck that had enough force to set off the airbags, the car is probably significantly damaged. Further, your insurance company may consider it a total loss if the value of the car is less than the cost of replacing the dashboard and the airbags. Because replacing those things can cost thousands of dollars, an older car may not be worth fixing.
- Airbags can cause a smoky smell without actually being on fire. If your airbags deploy and you smell smoke, don’t panic! Airbags are deployed quickly using small explosives, which can leave a smoky smell lingering in the air. If you’re in an accident, take a minute to get oriented to what has happened, and if you think there really is a fire, focus your energy on getting out. This may not be easy, because the frame of the car may have become bent in the accident, making it difficult or even impossible to open doors or windows. Then, too, the seatbelt may be locked. Consider keeping an emergency kit in your car with tools to break out windows and cut through seatbelts in case you’re trapped.
- The safest car isn’t necessarily the one with the most airbags. There are many other safety features build into modern vehicles, and a new focus of manufacturers is active safety measures. This includes things like pre-collision systems and lane departure warnings, developed to prevent accidents. These active safety measures are different from passive safety measures, like airbags and car crumple zones, which mitigate injuries in an accident but don’t keep accidents from happening. When shopping for a car, look for one with a high safety rating, not just a high number of airbags. No number of airbags will keep you safe if your vehicle is structurally unsound, but the tests behind safety ratings look at all the factors that go into protecting drivers and passengers.
- After an accident, always have a professional inspect your vehicle. Your safety depends on the proper function of airbags and other safety features. Whether or not they were deployed in the crash, the airbags need to be checked and scanned by a professional, as do the other computerized safety features.
Any time your vehicle is in an accident, even if the airbags did not deploy, contact B&L Automotive Repairs. We’ll make sure that there’s no hidden damage that could potentially make your car unsafe. A family-owned business, we have over 30 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair, and we’ve even got a play area to entertain the kids while you wait. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment allows them to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive, or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to make sure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.