Airbag Burns & Injuries

Air bags are intended to save lives. They are installed in cars or trucks to be used once and, in many cases, they do the job. Auto air bags, however, are not the soft pillows that they appear to be in television ads. The reality is that they are made of a harsh canvas-like material that explodes into the driver’s face in a few thousandths of a second after an impact occurring at speeds as low as five miles per hour. In fact, the air bag and explosion itself often cause more severe injuries to the driver or passenger than the fender bender might have.

76 adult drivers were killed, with 28 of these deaths being women under 5 feet 2 inches tall

Air bags are designed to prevent injury to an adult around 5’8” and 180 lbs.  When a driver or passenger of smaller stature sits closer to the air bag serious injury or even death may result.  While injuries are more common than death, the true statistics are difficult to keep as injuries are voluntarily reported and information is neither verified nor investigated.

Quotes:

I was in a car accident a few years ago where the airbag deployed. 

First, that thing is fast; one second, it’s not there, and the next–PHFOWMPH!–it fills the whole area in front of you. I didn’t even see it expand.

Second, it didn’t hurt when it deployed, but it did bruise my wrists when it shoved my hands away from the steering wheel. Except for those bruises, I was unharmed by the crash, even though the front end of my car was smashed in, so having the airbag was a good thing.

I’ve been in a crash that caused the airbags to deploy. I don’t have pictures (at least none I’d be willing to share), but they ain’t pretty.

The point of an airbag is not to protect you from injuries. It’s to force you back so you don’t hit anything like the steering wheel (which can cause severe internal injuries) or the windshield (which can cause brain damage). The airbag will protect your face from broken glass if it needs to, but that’s not its primary purpose.

The airbag on its own is sufficient to cause injury. My car’s airbag abraded the skin off half my face and caused deep cuts to my right arm. It also forced the side of my head into the driver’s-side window. But the alternative was worse — I could’ve sustained massive internal injuries and/or possible brain damage and/or death.

One second I was holding the steering wheel, the next I was holding a steering wheel with a deflated airbag coming out of it. 

I never felt a thing from the bag hitting me in the face, but my eyeglasses and hat were blown out the open sunroof.

I did sustain a serious injury, though. The retina in my left eye was torn and partially detached. Two surguries later and I still can’t see straight with that eye.

As for the placement of your hands on the wheel, according to the guys at Skip Barber, if you’re gonna drive with one hand on the top of the steering wheel, be sure to wear a big, heavy watch. So that way in an accident, it can knock some sense into you, and you’ll learn to use 9 and 3.

When my wife and I were in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic one time, I was the passenger when my wife didn’t brake fast enough and we rear-ended someone at about 10-15 mph, just fast enough to deploy the airbags. # Some slight breathing difficulties from the above mentioned powder and the bag propellent  Slight!? I had to jump out the car immediately like we’d been tear-gassed.

Seriously, any films you’ve seen of airbags deploying were filmed in slow motion. In reality they literally explode into your face. You won’t have time for any reaction before it’s over.

Great answer. Bag deployments are so fast that one of the more common complaints after a deployment is “The bag did not deploy, it just fell out of the steering wheel.” This is because the deployment is so fast, you don’t realize it is happening until it is all over. Often times people still have a hard time believing it until they are shown the imprint of makeup or lipstick, or whatever left on the bag.

In my job I have gotten to deploy hundreds of airbags (parts being scrapped) I can honestly tell you that you cannot see the event. If you are quick, you might see the bag while it is inflated, but you will never see it inflate. The event is just too quick.

One second I was holding the steering wheel, the next I was holding a steering wheel with a deflated airbag coming out of it.
Ditto. Fortunately I was able to brake a little before impact, and I hit the other car (which had pulled out in front of me) at the front fender, so it spun around and also lessened the impact, so I had only a small cut on my hand where it hit the stickshift (I guess) and just overall body soreness the next day.

I also spent some time looking for my missing sunroof. It had been open, so I thought it had perhaps sprung out of its frame and flown forward. Eventually I found it in little shattered pieces all over the floor of the car.

The engine and CD player were still running after the crash. I had to shut them off. After the insurance was all settled out (car got totaled because the airbag damage alone was more than half the value of the car), I bought another car just like it. Hey, it passed my crash test. 😀

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