Air Bag Options

Air bags are proven, effective safety devices. From their introduction in the late 1980s through November 1, 1997, air bags have saved about 2,620 people. The number of people saved increases each year as air bags become more common on America’s roads. However, the number of lives saved is not the whole story. Air bags are particularly effective in preventing life-threatening and debilitating head and chest injuries. A study of real-world crashes conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the combination of seat belts and air bags is 75 percent effective in preventing serious head injuries and 66 percent effective in preventing serious chest injuries. That means 75 of every 100 people who would have suffered serious head injuries in crashes, and 66 out of 100 people who would have suffered chest injuries were spared that fate because they wore seat belts and had air bags.

For some people, these life-saving and injury-preventing benefits come at the cost of a less severe injury caused by the air bag itself. Most air bag injuries are minor cuts, bruises, or abrasions and are far less serious than the skull fractures and brain injuries that air bags prevent. However, 87 people have been killed by air bags as of November 1, 1997. These deaths are tragic but rare events — there have been about 1,800,000 air bag deployments as of that same date. The one factor that is common to all who died is NOT their height, weight, sex, or age. Rather, it is the fact that they were too close to the air bags when they started to deploy. For some, this occurred because they were sitting too close to the air bags. More often this occurred because they were not restrained by seat belts or child safety seats and were thrown forward during pre-crash braking.

The vast majority of people can avoid being too close and can minimize the risk of serious air bag injury by making simple changes in behavior. Shorter drivers can adjust their seating position. Front-seat adult passengers can sit a safe distance from their air bags. Infants and children 12 and under should sit in the back seat. And everyone can buckle up. The limited number of people who may not be able to make these changes may benefit from having the opportunity to turn off their air bags when necessary.

Beginning January 19, 1998, consumers could choose to have an on-off switch installed for the air bags in their vehicles if they were, or a user of their vehicle was, in one of the risk groups listed below. The following information provides the facts you need about air bags so you can make the appropriate decision for you and anyone else who is in a risk group.

Who should consider turning off air bags?
People who must transport infants riding in rear-facing infant seats in the front passenger seat.
People who must transport children ages 1 to 12 in the front passenger seat.
Drivers who cannot change their customary driving position and keep 10 inches between the center of the steering wheel and the center of the breastbone.
People whose doctors say that, due to their medical condition, the air bag poses a special risk that outweighs the risk of hitting their heads, necks, or chests in crashes if the air bags are turned off.

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Keep in mind that 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.

At Bache and Lynch you can receive a free consultation about your air bag or air bag gas explosion burn injury and no attorney’s fees unless you recover money damages. If you have suffered an air bag burn injury from facial abrasions or fractures because of an air bag, you may be entitled to recover compensation for medical treatment, disfigurement or other losses.