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More than just a lot of hot air?
espite the controversy
about airbags, the fact remains that they save lives. Today, all new
cars are equipped with airbags, and statistics show that they do
save lives. They also prevent serious head and chest injuries,
especially in the worst kind of accidents ó head-on crashes.
Driver air bags reduce deaths by around 14 percent, while passenger
bags cut down on fatalities by around 11 percent. Airbags are
designed to work in conjunction with lap and shoulder seat belts,
and one without the other is not nearly as effective.
bags are designed to inflate in collisions in which a vehicle
crashes into something solid at a speed of 8-14 mph. Air bags are
activated by sensors which detect a front-end crash and then send an
electronic signal. This signal sets off a chemical reaction that
inflates the air bag with nitrogen gas. Additionally, air bags are
outfitted with vents that act to deflate them after they have
cushioned the passenger. Air bags are designed to cushion passengers
and prevent them from hitting their heads, necks, and chests on the
steering wheel or dashboard.
there are some problems with airbags that have resulted in injury,
some of them serious ones. In fact, there have been 87 deaths
resulting from air bag deployment since 1987, but this figure is
relatively small considering that there have been 1,800,000 air bag
deployments since November of that year.
is a common factor that all these air-bag fatalities share: the
victims were too close when the bag began to deflate. This happens
because the air bags deploy with a great deal of force, which
decreases as the bag inflates further. If a passenger is sitting at
least 10 inches from the center of the airbag that passenger will
only come in contact with the deployed airbag after it has reached
That fact is important
enough to repeat: PASSENGERS SHOULD SIT AT LEAST 10 INCHES FROM
THE CENTER OF THE AIR BAG.
a passenger is sitting closer, he or she can be hit with enough
force to be seriously, if not fatally, injured. The extreme risk
zone is between 2-3 inches from the center of the bag. Seat belts
are especially important because they not only prevent passengers
from being thrown around the car into hard surfaces, but they also
restrain a passenger from being thrown forward into a deploying air
BAGS AND SEAT BELTS WERE DESIGNED TO WORK TOGETHER. They work as
a complete system, and one without the other is not only
ineffective, but also potentially dangerous.
risk of injury from air bags when passengers are positioned
correctly and using their seat belts is very small, while the
benefits from air bags in serious crashes is significant. Without an
air bag, a passengerís face will very likely smash into the
steering wheel, especially in a serious frontal crash.
is one absolute rule: infants should NEVER be placed in the front
seat of a car where there is a passenger side air bag. Place infants
in a rear-facing restraint in the center of the back seat, secured
to the car with an adult safety belt. Also, make sure the infant is
securely buckled in.
also a good idea for ALL kids to ride in the back seat. The back
seat is much safer, and statistics show that children sitting in the
back seat during a crash had a much greater rate of surviving
without serious injury. Keeping your children in the back seat,
buckled in with both a lap belt and a shoulder belt, keeps them away
from the front air bag.
it comes to airbags, donít discount both the risks and the
benefits. There are now switches that will disable the car's
airbags, but remember: if you turn off your air bag, youíll be
turning off possible life-saving protection in the event of a
head-on collision. Once you know all the facts and rules, it should
become clear ó air bags save lives.
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