Airbags have been known not only for their saving lives but also for taking them. Airbags were an option in the mid 1970s and now airbags are standard in every car. (Automobile) Airbags are built into steering columns, dashboards and in newer cars also the side panels, to cushion passengers and drivers in an event of a wreck. Airbags are made from nylon and inflated with sodium oxide and nitrogen. Now that airbags are so common and expensive, thieves are known to steal and sell them.
During the rainstorm, its hard to see anything especially when the downpour makes the windshield wipers work constantly. On this cold, dreary February night Tracy was driving her 1996 Ford Explorer with her husband in the passenger seat and her 16-month-old daughter, Alix, in her car seat in the back. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tall, 12 point buck is caught by the vehicles’ headlights. Both the buck and Tracy freeze. A second later, a powerful explosion occurs inside the cabin of the car. The airbags deflate nearly as quickly as they inflate. An hour later a car sees the wreck and stops to help. At that point, Tracy had no pulse, her husband is unconscious, and Alix was screaming in the back seat. (Mellon, Webster ; Mellon)
At last count, this scenario has happened 135 times. (Strong) How many more times does it have to happen before the automotive industry does something about it? Drivers are not the only victims, though. Small women, children, and the elderly have also been killed as a result of airbags. The time has come to ask ourselves, “Do airbags really work?” First off, most people feel that airbags are a great safety device. They let people walk away from an accident without a scratch, right? They protect everybody, right? People dont need seatbelts if their car has an airbag, right? Wrong. Airbags cause injuries, airbags kill, and airbags dont work unless seatbelts are worn. In a rollover accident, people still have a chance of being thrown from the car even if their car has airbags.
When looking at the airbag issue, we must first look at the issue of safety. When the idea of installing airbags was first introduced, it seemed to be a good, life-saving idea. However, airbags have snapped the necks of 135 children and short women. (Strong) Smaller women might survive their accidents if airbags werent installed in their vehicles. True, airbags have had some success. Airbags have been credited with saving 3,800 lives since they have been introduced. (Akre) The airbags may be saving some lives. However, in other cases, they are doing more damage than good.
USA Today broke the story on airbag performance. The news report told us that airbags deliver enough non-lethal injuries to the passengers that it offsets their performance on overall injuries. The net result is that airbags have been found to cause injuries in so many accidents that the little good they do is overshadowed by the injuries they cause.
Now that you understand some of the problems with the performance of airbags, lets look at another problem, why they are unreliable. The reliability of airbags is questioned since they do not protect all sizes of bodies. When the first airbags were tested, the engineers didnt take into account the different sizes of people the bags would have to protect. They used a one-sized dummy. The engineers didnt think about the possibility of babies in the front seat or smaller-framed people being hurt by the bags.
The airbag deploys at speeds of 200 miles an hour. (Air bag) The bags explode when a sensor sets them off, whether the car is involved in a fender bender or a head on collision. If the cars sensors could sense the severity of the crash, the airbag could deploy with more or less force, resulting in less overall injuries. These “smart sensors” are still on the drawing board. It will be years before they are being put into full effect. According to Ford and General Motors, the advent of “smart sensors” will accompany “smarter airbags.” These airbags will not only be located in the steering wheel and the glove box, but on the side of the seats. The airbags will also be smart enough to know whether a passenger airbag should deploy, in case no one is seated there. (GM, Ford rethink safety) Hopefully, the cost will not overshadow the safety devices. . Until that time, drivers will have to continue to use good driving skills.
Cost is a major decision when deciding what car to buy. Since the price of insurance is rising, most people want a car that is cost effective when it comes to insurance. Insurance companies actually charge substantially more to insure an airbag-equipped car. The insurance rate for an airbag-equipped car will continue to rise, due to the reports of airbag related deaths. The main reason the insurance is so high for an airbag equipped car is that the cost of replacing a deployed airbag is expensive. The air bags cost nearly 800 dollars to replace. (Doran) A simple fender bender can result in thousands of dollars of medical bills and another thousand to fix the car.
Airbags not only cause injury and raise insurance, they also make your car a target. If you have an airbag in your car, a thief can be 200 dollars richer in two minutes. The couple of hundred dollars received by the thieves is more than enough incentive to target them, since they are worth more than most car stereos. A couple of screwdrivers and two minutes of time is all it takes to steal an airbag. (Newman) Quite an incentive for the average thief. The thief has no use for the bags, though. So who buys them? Any repair shop owner that wants to stay competitive, thats who. When stolen bags and sensors are sold illegally to repair shops, the repair shops endanger everybody. Airbags arent easily transferred from one vehicle to another. Sensors might be different or the size of the bag may be improper. People have no way of knowing if the airbags will even go off. After paying upwards of a thousand dollars to replace an airbag, knowing whether or not it will go off should not even be a factor. (Newman)
The last problem with airbags is the fact that people seem to become more dangerous on the roads when they have them. People not only drive faster, they also take more risks. These risks include increased speeding and not wearing their seatbelts. Drivers with airbag equipped cars feel that the airbag gives them an advantage, and that they can drive like a maniac. An airbag will not work properly if a seatbelt isnt worn. (Healey ; ODonnell) This belief can kill, as it has before. Many people would probably still be alive today if they had worn their seatbelt in conjunction with their airbag. In an accident, the airbag will not prevent the passenger from being ejected from the vehicle. If people just wear seatbelts, they do not face a chance of being ejected from a vehicle. If people dont wear any safety device, they sustain serious injuries in fender benders. Airbags can even harm people in a low speed crash. (Strong)
Airbags cause more problems over all than they are worth. Airbags cause death and insurance rates to increase due to theft and the increasing number of airbags located in a car. Automakers need to consider installing smart sensors as soon as possible. Lets not forget that there have already been way too many accidents that were preventable.