Airbags – Pop em’ or Keep em’During the rainstorm, it’s hard to see anything-especially when thedownpour makes the windshield wipers work constantly. On this cold, drearySeptember night young two year old Mica is safely buckled in her child safetyseat, which is attached to the passenger seat belt. Her older brother, Sean,quietly sleeps in the backseat while his mother drives the exhausted childrenhome. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tall, 12 point buck is caught by thevehicles’ headlights. Both the buck and the mother freeze. A milli-secondlater, a powerful explosion occurs inside the cabin. The airbags deflate nearlyas quickly as they inflate, and Sean begins to scream. His mother is fine. Theseatbelt along with the airbag saved her from any serious harm. She is stilldazed as she looks over to her two year old, expecting more screaming. Nothing.
Nothing happens. She shakes her little girl and realizes that something isdrastically wrong. Mica is dead.
At last count, this scenario has happened 31 times. How many more timesdoes it have to happen before the automotive industry does something about it?Children are not the only victims, though. Small women and the elderly havealso 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? Theyprotect everybody, right? People don’t need seatbelts if their car has anairbag, right? Wrong. Airbags cause injuries, airbags kill, and airbags don’twork unless seatbelts are worn. In a rollover accident, people still have achance of being thrown from the car even if their car has airbags. Not only arethe airbags dangerous, they are also a key target for thieves. The easy toremove airbags coupled with the high street value make them sought after bythieves. The couple of hundred dollars received by the thieves is more thanenough incentive to target them, since they are worth more than most car stereos.
When looking at the airbag issue, we must first look at the issue ofsafety. When the idea of installing airbags was first introduced, it seemed tobe a good, life-saving idea. However, according to CNN, airbags have snappedthe necks of 30 children. CNN also said that 15 smaller women would havesurvived their accidents if airbags weren’t installed in their vehicles(“Federal Safety Officials to Propose new Airbag Rules” 1).
True, airbags have had some success. According to CNN, airbags havebeen credited with saving 1,100 lives since they have been introduced (“FederalSafety Officials…..” 1). However, an article by CNNfn goes on to state, theairbags do nothing to cut the overall injury rate that occurs in accidents(“Reports Knock Airbag Safety” 1). The airbags may be saving some lives.
However, in other cases, they are doing more damage than good. USA Today brokethe story on airbag performance. The news report told us that airbags deliverenough non-lethal injuries to the passengers that it offsets their performanceon overall injuries (“Reports Knock Airbag Safety” 1). The net result: airbagshave been found to cause injuries in so many accidents that the little good theydo is overshadowed by the injuries they cause.
Now that you understand some of the problems with the performance ofairbags, let’s look at another problem-why they are unreliable.
The reliability of airbags is questioned since they do not protect allsizes of bodies. When the first airbags were tested, the engineers didn’t takeinto account the different sizes of people the bags would have to protect. Theyused a one-sized dummy, similar to “Larry and Vince.” The engineers didn’tthink about the possibility of babies in the front seat or smaller-framed peoplebeing hurt by the bags. The airbag deploys at speeds of 200 miles an hour,according to CNNfn. The bags explode when a sensor sets them off, whether thecar is involved in a fender bender or a head on collision (“Reports KnockAirbag Safety” 1). If the cars’ sensors could sense the severity of the crash,the airbag could deploy with more or less force, resulting in less overallinjuries.
These “smart sensors” are still on the drawing board. It will be yearsbefore they are being put into full effect. Until that time, drivers will haveto continue to use good driving skills. According to Automotive News, theadvent of “smart sensors” will accompany “smarter airbags.” These airbags willnot only be located in the steering wheel and the glove box, but on the side ofthe seats. The airbags will also be smart enough to know whether a passengerairbag should deploy, in case no one is seated there.(“Next generationairbags….” 18). Hopefully, the cost will not overshadow the safety devices.
Cost is a major decision when deciding what car to buy. Since the priceof insurance is rising, most people want a car that is cost effective when itcomes to insurance. Insurance companies actually charge substantially more toinsure an airbag equipped car. The insurance rate for an airbag equipped carswill continue to rise, due to the reports of airbag related deaths. The mainreason the insurance is so high for an airbag equipped car is that the cost ofreplacing a deployed airbag is expensive. According to CNNfn, the air bags costnearly 1,000 dollars to replace (“Reports Knock Airbag Safety” 1). A simplefender bender can result in thousands of dollars of medical bills and anotherthousand to fix the car.
Airbags not only cause injury and raise insurance, they also make yourcar a target. If you have an airbag in your car, a thief can be 200 dollarsricher in two minutes. According to Automotive News, a couple of screwdriversand two minutes of time is all it takes to steal an airbag. Quite an incentivefor the average Joe Blow. Joe has no use for the bags, though. So who buysthem? Any repair shop owner that wants to stay competitive, that’s who. Whenstolen bags and sensors are sold illegally to repair shops, the repair shopsendanger everybody. According to Automotive News, airbags aren’t easilytransferred from one vehicle to another. Sensors might be different or the sizeof the bag may be improper. People have no way of knowing if the airbags willeven go off (Keebler 41). After paying upwards of a thousand dollars to replacean airbag, knowing whether or not it will go off should not even be a factor.
The last problem with airbags is the fact that people seem to becomemore dangerous on the roads when they have them. People not only drive faster,they also take more risks, according to Reason magazine. These risks includeincreased speeding and not wearing their seatbelts. Drivers with airbagequipped cars feel that the airbag gives them an advantage, and that they candrive like a maniac (Carson 14). An airbag will not work properly if a seatbeltisn’t worn. This belief can kill, as it has before. Many people would probablystill be alive today if they would have worn their seatbelt in conjunction withtheir airbag. In an accident, the airbag will not prevent the passenger frombeing ejected from the vehicle.
Throughout life, the one thing that I have learned is that nothing is100% reliable. If people just wear seatbelts, they face a chance of beingejected at speeds of 70 miles an hour. If people don’t wear any safety device,they sustain serious injuries in fender benders. Airbags can even harm peoplein a low speed crash. Let’s not forget that there have already been way toomany accidents that were preventable. Let’s not have to face the situation ofhaving to look over and realize that our Mica is dead.