One minute you’re driving down the road, singing along to the radio—the next minute your face is bouncing off your steering wheel’s airbag. You suddenly realize you’ve just been in an accident, and your airbag might have saved your life.

Designed to deploy in milliseconds during a collision, airbags are a critical part of automotive safety. But as with any safety technology, questions can arise about their effectiveness. Are airbags really as beneficial as we believe, or do they bring hidden risks? To understand the full picture, it’s essential to peer into what the statistics and studies reveal about airbag safety.

The Evolution of Airbag Technology

Initially introduced in the 1970s, airbags were a revolutionary step in automotive safety. The early versions were simple, single-purpose devices designed to cushion the impact for front-seat passengers in the event of a head-on collision. However, as the understanding of vehicle dynamics and crash impacts deepened, the technology advanced.

Airbags evolved from being mere frontal airbags for drivers to sophisticated systems that include side-impact airbags, curtain airbags, and even knee airbags. The technology’s sophistication grew to include sensors that determine the severity of a crash, the size and position of a passenger, and whether seatbelts are being used—all of which influence how and if the airbag deploys. Today’s airbags are designed to work in tandem with other safety features like seatbelts and crumple zones to provide comprehensive protection.

Airbag Effectiveness: Looking at the Stats

The effectiveness of airbags in reducing injuries and saving lives is not just anecdotal—it’s strongly supported by an array of statistical data. These figures paint a clear picture of how airbags have become a pivotal component in vehicle safety across various crash scenarios.

  • Frontal Airbag Impact: A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that front airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29% and fatalities of front-seat passengers aged 13 and older by 32%. They also estimate that as of 2017, frontal airbags have saved over 50,457 lives. These figures underscore the critical role of frontal airbags in protecting occupants in head-on collisions.
  • Side Airbags and Head Protection: According to a Transportation Injury Prevention (TIP) study, side airbags that protect the head can dramatically lower the risk of death. In fact, they reduce a car driver’s risk of death in driver-side crashes by 37% and an SUV driver’s risk by 52%. These statistics highlight the life-saving potential of side airbags, especially in side-impact collisions.
  • Combined Safety with Seatbelts: Airbags are most effective when used in conjunction with seatbelts. The NHTSA reveals that the combination of an airbag plus a lap and shoulder belt reduces the risk of death in frontal crashes by 61%, compared with a 50% reduction for belts alone and a 34% reduction for airbags alone.

However, it’s important to also acknowledge the concerns and risks associated with airbags, especially in low-speed crashes. The NHTSA writes that during 1990-2008, more than 290 deaths were caused by frontal airbag inflation in low-speed crashes. Notably, nearly 90% of these deaths occurred in vehicles manufactured before 1998, and more than 80% of the people killed were unbelted or improperly restrained. This data points to the risks involved, particularly in older vehicles and for passengers not wearing seatbelts.

These statistics collectively demonstrate the undeniable benefits of airbags while also highlighting the importance of using them correctly alongside other safety measures like seatbelts.

How Airbags and Seatbelt Use Can Affect Your Claim

Many people don’t know this, but airbag and seatbelt operation can affect the outcome of your car accident claim in a few crucial ways, including:

  • Evidence of Due Diligence: The use of seatbelts and properly functioning airbags can demonstrate that you exercised due care for your safety. In a personal injury claim, this can be advantageous, as it shows that you took reasonable steps to mitigate injury risks.
  • Impact on Injury Severity: Airbags and seatbelts are designed to minimize injuries during accidents. If you sustained injuries despite using these safety measures, it could indicate the severity of the crash and the potential negligence of the other party. Conversely, if injuries were caused or worsened by malfunctioning airbags or not using seatbelts, it could complicate the claim.
  • Comparative Negligence Considerations: In some states, the principle of comparative negligence applies. This means that if you were partially at fault for your injuries—for instance, by not wearing a seatbelt—your compensation could be reduced proportionally to your degree of fault.
  • Product Liability Claims: In cases where airbag malfunction contributed to your injuries, there may be grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer. This is a separate legal avenue that requires a specific approach, focusing on defects in the airbag design, manufacture, or warnings.

Call Great West After Your Accident

The statistics confirm that airbags coupled with seatbelts substantially increase your chance of surviving a crash, despite some risks. Great West Injury Law is committed to advancing automotive safety and ensuring that individuals are well-informed about staying protected on the road.

In the unfortunate event of a car accident, Great West’s experienced personal injury lawyers are dedicated to providing comprehensive legal support and helping you navigate the intricacies of your case. If you need help following an accident, don’t hesitate to reach out to Great West Injury Law for a free consultation to ensure your rights and safety.