Airbags are designed to quickly deploy in a crash to protect your head and upper body from hitting the steering wheel or dashboard.
In many cases, these devices not only prevent injury, but also save lives. From 1987 to 2012, air bags have saved 39,976 lives, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Unfortunately, airbags deploy so quickly and with so much force that they sometimes cause severe injuries instead of preventing them.
Airbags Save Lives
The airbags on all modern cars and trucks are housed behind panels marked SRS, which stands for Supplemental Restraint System (or Safety Restraint System). At a minimum, a vehicle will have an SRS enclosure in the steering wheel, and behind a panel on the passenger side of the front seat.
How to Avoid Being Hurt by a Deploying Airbag
- Always wear your lap and shoulder safety belts. Airbags are designed to supplement seat belts in an accident, not replace them. You are almost ten times more likely to die in an accident where an airbag deploys if you are not wearing a seat belt than if you are.
- Sit as far away as you can from the steering wheel or passenger side dashboard. According to NHTSA, distance from the airbag is the most important risk factor in airbag safety. NHTSA recommends allowing 10 to 12 inches between your chest and the airbag enclosure.
- Always try to keep an adjustable steering wheel tilted down in a level or parallel position.
- Hold the steering wheel at the 9 and 3 o’clock or 8 and 4 o’clock positions. This prevents your wrists or arms being broken or forcibly hitting you in the face when an airbag deploys.
- Position your thumbs on the top or outside rim of the steering wheel, not on the inside of the wheel.
- NEVER place children under the age of one in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side airbag.
- Place children 12 years old and younger in the back seat, and make sure they are properly buckled up or restrained in a child restraint device.
- Move the passenger side front seat back as far as possible if there is no alternative to having a child ride there in a vehicle with a passenger-side airbag. Make sure the child is properly buckled up.
- Take care that children are secured into an approved child passenger restraint system and that children under the age of 18 are buckled up. These are legal responsibilities of the driver.