When you are shopping for a new car, you will probably consider a lot of factors before making a decision. Appearance, cost, and safety are all top factors that adults think about as they browse.
When you think about car safety, what is the first thing that comes to mind? It might be airbags.
Airbags are installed in cars throughout the world to prevent harm when an auto accident occurs. They are a tried and true method that has saved thousands of lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that they can reduce death from front crashes by 30%.
Unfortunately, airbags have been getting a bad rap for the past few years. Just like any piece of machinery or equipment, they are not perfect. Faulty Takata airbags have resulted in over nine deaths and over 100 serious injuries since 2015. Millions of car owners have these airbags in their cars, and South Florida car owners have been warned that they face increased risks due to something that is supposed to be protecting them.
Airbags in general are incredibly helpful, though, and car owners should equip themselves with the knowledge of both how their airbags work and what they can do to prevent airbag failure.
Accidents can happen at any time; it’s important to make sure your car is up-to-date and has working safety features that can prevent injuries and death during a crash.
How Do Airbags Work?
If you don’t know how airbags work, you might not understand how they can fail. The term “airbag” is actually quite misleading. When airbags are released, they do not inflate with oxygen. They are filled with a harmless nitrogen gas.
Airbags are ready to inflate in 1/20th of a second, but they are only triggered by a crash. How does this work?
When cars crash, they experience a sharp change in momentum. Rather than moving forward, they are suddenly stopped. (Cars can recognize this change in momentum, but our bodies cannot. We keep moving forward – unless we’re stopped by the inflating airbag. That’s why airbags were installed in the first place – they prevent bodies from crashing into dashboards or flying through the windshield of a car!)
What happens in the airbag?
The change in acceleration caused by the crash sends a signal to an electrical current. This current sets off a chemical reaction that fills the airbag with nitrogen gas. At the same time, your body is making contact with the airbag and bouncing back until it comes to a stop.
The chemical reaction happens incredibly fast. Which is good, because in a high-impact crash, there is little room for error. Unfortunately, there are a handful of ways that airbags can harm, rather than help, during a crash.
Why Airbags Sometimes Fail Florida Drivers
Airbags can fail for a variety of reasons. Even an airbag that is made without error can cause harm during a car crash. The following incidents can cause serious injury or death:
Force from the airbag
The sheer force of the airbag inflation can cause injury. This is why children are discouraged from sitting in the front seat of a car. If they do have to sit in that seat, parents should turn off airbag deployment.
The size of the airbag may leave little room for air. Though rare, people have suffocated from airbags.
Deployment of shrapnel
In the case of the Takata airbags, the inflator ignited too forcefully. The machinery required to ignite and inflate the airbags includes metal cartridges. In many Takata airbags, these pieces of metal are sent in the same direction that the airbag inflates. If this metal cuts a passenger, they may bleed to death.
How to Know If You Have Faulty Airbags
The Takata airbag recall has been affecting car owners since 2014, but it is far from over. In fact, it’s the largest recall the auto industry has ever experienced.
In June, the NHTSA urged South Florida car owners to check whether or not their cars were affected, and you really, really should. The dangers of Takata airbags are just too high. It’s important to take action to protect your family by ensuring that your airbags are safe.
It’s not just Takata airbags that put you at risk, either. In 2018, another 425,000 cars with potentially faulty airbags were released. Hyundai and Kia specifically are under scrutiny, and car owners should look into whether they are at risk.
How can you know if your car is affected? The NHTSA has a search tool on their website that can tell you if your car was made with potentially dangerous equipment. All you need is your 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
You can also sign up for Recall Alerts in case a recall that affects your car is announced.
Hopefully, understanding the inner workings of airbags will make you more aware of them – both how they can help, and how they might hurt in certain situations.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.