Automakers, at one time, balked at the idea of an airbag mandate, claiming they were too expensive and would do little to improve safety. Today, airbags come standard, and are even seen in seatbelts, center consoles, and backseats.
The entry-level Chevy Cruze, for example, now offers 10 standard airbags, including front, side, knee and head curtain, as well as outboard, rear-seat, side-impact bags. The automaker's 2012 Sonic also has 10 airbags, including dual-stage bags for the driver and front passenger, roof-rail-mounted head curtain bags, and seat-mounted side impact bags. It also includes knee bags for the driver and front passenger.
Click on the photo below to see a gallery of how other automakers are employing airbags in their vehicles:
Ford's inflatable seatbelts are designed to spread crash forces over five times more area of the body than conventional seatbelts. Used for rear-seat occupants, the inflatable belts help reduce pressure on the chest, and help control head and neck motion. (Source: Ford Motor Co.)
Very cool, Chuck. I've been lucky enough to never had seen an airbag actually deployed so it's really interesting to see all the various shapes and sizes and where they are hidden in the vehicle. The pinkish, odd shape airbag for preventing the driver and passenger from knocking heads is particularly interesting and odd-shaped. Any thoughts/intel on why it looks so freeform as opposed to most of the others which are more like big pillows?
Good question about the size and shapes of the various bags, Beth. I would guess there is some size and bulk determination based on providing protection while still allowing emergency personnel to get to the person from the side. The ability to exit after a crash has to be a major consideration is slimming down the size for side bags.
Two reasons for the odd shape, Beth: First, it's not a full frontal bag and therefore doesn't need to catch the full width of a person. It's really just there for head protection, so it has to be tall. Second, it has to pop out of a seam in the seat, so it has to be skinny.
It is amazing the amount of technology packed into today's cars. While I'm in favor of protecting lives, I don't believe that it's the government's job to enforce what safety devices an automobile must have. I for one would be more than happy to wear a 5-point racing harness instead of a typical shoulder/lap belt with all the airbags. If it's good for race cars to use a 5-point harness, why not for road use at much slower speeds? I would even be wiling to wear an open face helmet which attaches to the seat to protect my neck in case of an accident. The cost of all the airbags is astronomical (as added to the cost of the car purchase price), the added weight to the car robs fuel efficiency and cabin/cargo space, the increased system complexity affects reliably and service costs, malfunctioning airbag can cause injuries, and there is no guarantee that all systems are functioning properly each time I get in the car. US is supposed to be a free country where people can make their own decisions, not shoved something down the throats. Give the car makers freedom to build what the consumers want. I for one, want a small, light, simple, fuel efficient enclosed trike for commuting with a racing harness, not a 3 ton SUV with thousands of dollars in airbags, rear view cameras, proximity sensors, lane keeping sensors, ABS, traction control, tire pressure sensors, and countless other needless gadgets that make cars prohibitively expensive.
I worked in the airbag industry for years and was in charge of laser fabric cutting equipment as well as brining in the sewing and module assembly equipment for the late 90s Dodge trucks and other Chrysler vehicles.
the inflators use a small amount of rocket fuel that heats a cylinder of compressed inert gas. This inert gas expands rapidly and a disc is ruptured filling the bag. This minimizes the amount of explosive used in the inflator.
The inflation rate and amount is determined by measuring the impact impulse produced by the cars. Small cars like the Suzuki Samurai at the time had large impulses and required fast, aggressive inflators while the big dodge trucks were softer.
We had to track every part with bar codes, every nut and every rivet and rivet head. Rivets and heads were counted electronically. One time we came up short on one rivet and unloaded and scanned and disassembled an entire truckload to finally find the one rivet folded up in a bag.
The standing dark joke at our company was a riddle "Know what they call a missing rivet on an air bag?" Answer: " A bullet through the head".
We manufactured what I called "pillowcases inflated by hand grenades"
Video of rivets tearing through crash dummies' heads' was always enlightening.
Chuck, Great to see the images and actual visuals of how different airbags are designed to deploy. I am wondering how much the automakers are moving to more crash simulations versus actual crash testing. I'm sure they are still doing the latter but I thought they were moving in that direction. Thanks.
I understand that the airbags are inflated via a gas generator rather than compressed air. Can anyone confirim this? It also seems that the sensors have been vastly improved compared to earlier models.
I also recall from some years back that the cost of replacing the deployed airbags was quite high. This resulted in some cars being returned to service without air bags after an incident that triiggered the deployment but did not result in the complete loss of the vehicle.
It might be of interest to know how much it costs to replace the deployed airbags with new ones after an event.
It certainly seems that we ahve made enormous improvements in passenger safety.
A friend of mine who rebuilds automobiles said they are about $500 a bag to replace and they are dealer only part. The control module for these, usually under driver seat has to be reset by the dealership on genises system if bags where deployed.
Bags are inflated with a chemical reaction. My understanding is that compressed air was too slow.
I wonder what kind of cost/benefit analysis takes place during the design process about airbags versus extra metal. Presumably, a bigger car with a crumple zone in conjunction with air bags is more effective than either alone. The salient question is, in a small car with not much of a protective shell, how much safety (crash survivability) is added via chest, shoulder, waist etc. airbags. I don't know but would be curious.
Wow, that's an amazing amount of airbag types. Like Beth, I've never had a reason to seen an airbag operate so I don't know what they look like either. I think Alex's question is interesting. I'd guess that the number of airbags have increased at least because cars have gotten smaller, and also that they may have increased as more plastics and lighter metals are incorporated in car designs. Those lighter materials are, AFAIK, crash-optimized, but I wonder if there have been any tradeoffs: are they less crash-resistant psi than the metals they replace and are more airbags deployed as a result?
Ann: I don't know the answer about small versus big cars, and whether the size of the crumple zone is generally taken into account when figuring out how many airbags to deploy. I can point to one isolated case, however. The GMC Acadia does not have kneebags because the large crumple zone in the front absorbs sufficient crash energy without the use of a kneebag. Regarding whether new structural materials are less crash-resistant: Most of the new structures are actually better, as I understand it. Big vehicles in the old days had more volume in front to absorb the energy, but they weren't designed for optimization of structural loads. Vehicle structures today absorb more energy. Finite element analysis, and understanding of load paths, has played a big role in the creating structures that absorb crash energy more effectively.
Chuck, thanks for the input. I've been told by the materials manufacturers that newer materials are at least as crash-resistant as metals, and the data I've seen supports that. But it's good to know from the automotive design end of things that that's indeed the case. The second thing I was wondering was if the reduced volume from the earlier metal vehicles meant there needs to be more airbags, which it sounds like you are implying. Is that the case, even though newer vehicles have been redesigned to handle structural loads better?
That's a tough one, Ann. I can only back into the answer: Bigger vehicles with more energy absorption area in front don't use knee bags. That said, every vehicle uses driver and front passenger bags, no matter how much crash energy is absorbed by the structure.
I can't give exact statistics on the effect of airbags in small cars, Alex, but I can take a stab at how airbags compare with other safety systems. In the early days of airbags, it was said that three-point seat belts would prevent about about 42% of fatalities and the use of airbags would bump that figure up to 47% (at the time, that would have come to about 2,000 fatalities per year prevented by airbags). More recent studies based on vehicles with multiple types of airbags have set the airbag number at 3,000 per year, which is still well below seat belts. By way of comparison, electronic stability control is estimated to cut the annual number of fatalities by 10,000 per year (based on a NHTSA study of vehicle crashes in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri and Utah between 1997 and 2003). And NHTSA predicts that vehicle-to-vehicle communications will save more about 24,000 per year. The bottom line is, airbags probably save fewer lives than the public expects.
Al: There is a lot of effort to move some of the crash testing to simulation as opposed to physical crash tests. Not that physical crash testing will be wholly eliminated. But it is expensive and it does wreck a car every time you do it. The idea is to use simulation to do repeated testing during the design optimization stage when evolving the air bag design and positioning, the crumple zone, etc. Once the design is optimized and tested in the virtual world of simulation, traditional physical testing is then employed to validate the design and do final safety evaluation.
As part of the move to enable virtual crash tests, there is also work underway to create virtualized crash test dummies, in all shapes and sizes and to accommodate different ethnicities. With more valid human crash test dummy models, you can do more valid crash testing.
I worked on airbag system crash sensors in the late 80's and early 90's. These were MEMS sensors and the engineering gulf between the automotive guys and the IC/sensor guys was amazing!
I am very happy to see the technology adopted so widely (even if by law) these days and knowing my 21 year old, who used to sleep in his stroller on Sunday while I was at work trying to make sense of sensor failures will always drive a safer car as a result!
I've never been in an accident where airbags have deployed, but I have seen them in salvage yards after deployment, and in the classroom in their undeployed state.
In 1989, I took a GM training course on SIRs (Supplemental Inflatable Restraints). I learned a lot, and at that time, GM was using solid rocket fuel contained in a wafer-shaped disc about 3" in diameter and 1/2" thick for the driver's airbag in the steering wheel.
Several asked the instructor if one could be deployed, but we were denied repeatedly. Apparently the sound and mess was not something they wanted inside the classroom or training center, which was understandable. They did show us some videos, however...
I wonder what type of fuel is in the airbags of today.
Airbags have always been obsolete. It is not just that they are dangerously explosive and expensive, but that they don't work as well as permanent passive devices. Permanent harness or padded restraints not only are cheaper, but work multiple times, and don't have any of the dangers, such at knocking the driver off the steering wheel. A padded frontal restraint could be lowered each time you get into the vehicle, just like on an amusement park ride. That would not only save millions in costs, but tens of thousands of lives. Each seat should have its own padded permanent retraints. It is a matter of time before the public realizes how dangerous air bags really are.
When I was on the extrication team on my Fire Department we had an opportunity to sit in a vehicle model and have an airbag inflated in our faces. There is no mental method to properly prepare you for the inflation! Seat Belts and Air Bags have made vehicle crashes much more survivable, if only people would use them. Inadvertant deployment of air-bags was and remains a significant danger to Fire Department personnel. Imagine an air-bag inflating while a Fireman is leaning across the passenger seat trying to assist in extricating the driver! Self driving/accident avoiding cars cannot replace a well trained, dilligent driver. An accident, as defined as an unavoidable occurace, very seldom happens. Automobile crashes are mostly caused by driver inattention and poor judgement. A periodic review by drivers of Newton's laws of motion should be mandatory. Thank you, and good night!
bob from maine, you've added an interesting and important perspective to this discussion. I agree about diligent, trained, and I might add awake and alert and not DUI, drivers. OTOH, while hearing about the dangers of accidental airbag deployment I haven't thought of what could happen to rescue personnel in that event.
Interestingly, we train for airbag deployment during an extrication. Air-bags deploy with significant force and do a good job of protecting the occupants from that ONE impact. Frequently the initial impact is not the one that causes the most injury and the airbags are useless for the second and third impact. Airbags are defined as a supplimentary restraint system; they suppliment the seat-belt! Modern high-end cars actually envelope the occupants in infalted bags; but - big BUT - they do-not-work if the occupant is out of position; leaned over opening the glove box, sitting with the seat leaned far back, etc.. I'm not sure the airbag is the answer to bad driving habits.
Bobfrommaine: Here you've raised another good point -- yes, airbags work poorly or not at all if the driver or passenger is incorrectly positioned. That's why GM fought airbags so hard in the early '90s, even after Chrysler had bags in 99% of their vehicles. For years, Dr. David Viano of GM tracked surveys and polls that suggested the public didn't understand airbag technology. "All the surveys said the same thing," Viano said in 1992. "The public thought airbags were magic and superior in their effectiveness to seat belts." GM believed that if drivers had airbags, they would stop using seat belts. Hopefully, drivers have figured it out at this point.
Bobfrommaine: Having seen an airbag deploy, I now have even greater respect for the danger faced by first responders. Regarding your comment about review of Newton's Laws: After seeing how little regard some drivers have for reaction and stopping distances, I have unfortunately concluded that some drivers are beyond help, no matter what we try to teach them.
IT is certainly true that putting enough airbags in a car will protect the occupants up to some speed. Above that speed there is presently not enough time for the bag to inflate, if the inflation velocity is held to safe values. The speeds that allow them to protect most effectively are from about 20 MPH to about 50 MPH. This is what I have learned from being involved with crash safety testing for six years. Also, the automakers concern that the passengers must be in the correct position is correct. The fact is that to provide anywhere near the claimed protection a passenger must be wearing the seatbelts as well.
And the amazing thing is that for a properly belted passenger the belts do the most protecting. So my comment is that airbags are severely interfering with natural selection. A far better solution would be to keep those who are unable or unwilling to drive safely from driving at all. Unfortunately our legal system presently awards those folks having the very poorest judgement very highly.
One intelligent option would be to make airbags an extra cost option on a vehicle, rather than force them on everybody. OF course then the reality of the fact that safety does not sell would rear up and present itself, and company would not have as great a profit.
Everything I've seen over the past 20 years would suggest you're right on the money, William K. I remember talking to GM execs who fought the airbag mandate for the exact reason you mention: Airbags provided only a little bit of coverage beyond what three-point belts were already providing. Seemed like the harder GM fought, however, the worse they looked in the newspapers, and the less people believed them.
Did you ever see one of those stock cars lose it and do a string of endovers fro 160 MPH? and then get out of the car and walk away? Certainly banged and bruised, but also alive and walking. AND NO AIRBAG IN THE CAR.
At some point it is nessesary for people to be responsible for the outcome of their actions. Sometimes when you mess up you do pay a price. And nature's price is quite harsh on many occasions.
The problem with airbags is, first, that a person still needs to wear a seatbelt to stay in the correct location for the bag to provide the adequate protection, second, that as the speeds increase the protection that they provide decreases, and third, that as cars continue to be designed with greater crumple zones, there winds up being a fairly sharp rise in decelleration rate when that zone is all crumpled, but the trigger has not yet detected enough decelleration to trigger the bag until it is almost too late. THis situation gets far worse as the vehicle steel rusts under the assault of road salt and brine take their tolls, causing the extended crumple zone to absorb much less energy prior to being completely crushed. At that point the airbags primarily assure that the repair bill will be great enough to assure that the car would be scrapped.
I do not see that development as an improvement or as progress.
Your first two points are right on, William K. Your third point, I honestly don't know but will take your word for it. All of the points, however, reveal one great truth about airbags: Consumers don't understand them and inaccurately consider them to be a panacea, which they are not.
William, I agree with your points and would like to add one more. I just ran across another article on driving that said the correct hand positions are no longer 10 and 2. There wasn't a 100% new recommendation, but it tended toward 9 and 3. Why? Because if your hands are in the wrong position, the airbag in the steering wheel can remove them for you or severely burn the skin. As they are placed in more and more locations, what are the additional dangers if you are not sitting quite right?
Good point, Jack. I had never thought about the effect o putting your hands at 10 and 2. It makes sense to have at 9 and 3, which I assume would also keep your forearms and elbows a little farther from the detonating bag.
Jack, you make a good point. I make a point of not keeping live armed ordinance in front of my face, and yet I am forced to carry the airbag detonator in front of me whenever I drive. And much of the time my hands are at more like 1 and 11, so if it went off I would be in deep..... But I pay close attention as I drive and so I avoid collisions. Amazinly enough, it seems that most collisions and other accidents are caused by driver inattention, more than twice as many as all other causes combined. So reducing driver distraction by reducing driver distractions would seem to be a good choice. But not a profitable one, and they always go with the money.
William K., I have always thought the same thing - that it bothers me that the government would force me to have live ordinance in front of my (and my family's) face in my car.
Someone's airbag deployed on the road in front of our house when he hit a deer. At that level of impact, the airbag was completely unnecessary and he said that the airbag actually caused him to lose consciousness for a short period of time. Fortunately there was no pole or other obstacle in his way or he could have hit that while in his stunned state. It also filled the whole car with a light colored powder. (I never heard what it took to remove that.) His son was next to him and he was not rendered unconscious - only the driver. I don't like the scenario of rendering the driver unconscious. Now THAT is driver distraction.:)
Seriously, though, one accident can include multiple impacts and it is possible for a skilled driver to avoid the second impact if they are not impaired by an airbag. I have been in that situation (when someone ran a stop sign and hit me). If an airbag had deployed such that it would have impaired me (the driver), one or more of my family members could have easily been killed.
William K, you seem pretty anti-airbag, and I'll admit that I used to be as well. Good drivers don't get into accidents, don't want explosives in the face, etc.
But a few years back a 17 year-old kid lost control of his truck, crossed the yellow line and hit my vehicle head-on at high speed. Those explosives in my face saved my (and my wife's) lives. Yes, I had my hands positioned improperly and got a good burn on my arm, and my wife got a cut on her nose from her airbag. But I'll take those minor injuries over what could have been. It made a believer out of me. Now I'm all for cramming as many airbags in the car as I can get!
Walt, that is a very good point. Multiple impact collisions do happen.
At one point in the airbags history that powder was sodium hydroxide, which is hard on living things. That came from the zinc-adzide decomposition , and if the bag burst things would be messy. I am not sure what is used currently.
In the case of hitting the deer, the big problem, aside from knocking the driver out, is the large additional expense tp repair all of the damage done by the airbags firing. That was quoted to me as about $1800 for my Neon quite a few years ago. And what if the deer had no insurance? Who pays for the damage then?
in 1986 readers digest chronicled one of the first head on crashes for 2 chrysler lebarons with the first production air bags. great article. air bags save lives in leu of a hs steel roll cage with a 6 point harness for each driver. yes, there are a few instances where the air bag isn't necessary or can be a hinderance after the crash (1-2% of crashes?). but i want the air bag(s) in my car (just in case).
also - the air bag control unit actually measures the directional g forces before deploying the air bags. a deer impact will not usually slow down the car fast enough to cause deployment.
and - worrying about rust and crumple zones is a real stretch.
Yes, there are cases where an airbag gives the driver a better chance of survival than say, a seatbelt. See this story below about a lady who drove off a cliff in a canyon in 1992. The car landed front end down, then came to rest upside down. Only her eyeglasses were broken. It's true that airbags often aren't as effective as seat belts, but they do play an important role in some cases.
In my nearly 20 years in EMS, I have not seen 1 person killed or seriously injuried by an airbag...minor injuries yes, but the point is they were MINOR, and the patient survived! What IS dangerous is having an airbag and NOT wearing your seatbelt! If your not wearing your seatbelt and the airbag goes off while you are going over the top of the steering wheel or dash, the airbag could cause serious injuries. Note: I have never witnessed this myself, just heard of it happening from other EMS providers. Side note...if you think seatbelts don't work...just remember this...just about the only way someone gets ejected from a car is by not wearing a seatbelt...and almost every patient I have seen ejected from a car DOES have serious injuries...
I'm not sure William K. and I are necessarily "anti-airbag", but rather against being REQUIRED to have them and pay for them.I have no problem with them as an option if you want them, but am opposed to the government requiring me to pay for and have live airbags in front of me and my family as I drive and also to wear seatbelts.
I have several relatives and friends whose lives were saved by NOT wearing their seatbelts, and some who were injured or killed BY their seatbelts, but have never personally known anyone saved by their seatbelt.My wife has an injury that she will live with for the rest of her life caused BY her seatbelt and she would have been just fine without one in that accident.By the way, when the police report on an accident, they will NEVER admit when someone was killed or injured by their seatbelt in their report, so no statistics will ever reflect this aspect.
Sorry for going beyond the original scope of this article, but I am for the freedom to choose whether or not to use seatbelts and airbags.
Sorry, my comment was not a reply to anyone else, I started a new subject for that reason. I was not saying that anyone had taken a position that was either pro or con airbag, nor arguing with anyone else's position, just simply stating my position. Sorry if my comments were misread. Everyone probably has a different view on this topic, and no one view is wrong or right. As I noted, in my experience I have seen airbags & seatbelts save many lives, hence my view on this topic.
I've wondered if a seat belt on a motorcycle would make sense. If you wore the lower harness and it snapped in behind the rider it would keep you on the seat during a crash and let the motorcycle absorbe the impact. Also if the pointed fairing had a hard steel strut supporting it you could transfer the forces to the car as the strut goes through the cars body panels.
I think it's just a matter of time before a high-line motorcycle manufacturer like BMW will offer an airbag system on a bike, probably positioned right at the handlebar mount position and firing directly rearward.
It seems like a motorcycle airbag might work if the rider doesn't just fly over it which is why I think a belt holding you down to the seat would be helpful so you'd be in the right place for the airbag to do some good. I'm thinking of experimenting with the seat belt idea since it would also help on hard braking when my passenger is pushed up against me. I'd need to find a good anchor point. The seat is only held on by the flimsiest of latches so hooking to that would be pretty silly.
A good point is made that even with airbags a seatbelt is needed for safety. So how about a seatbelt interlock, so that unless the belt is worn neither the radio nor the air conditioning would work. That should improve the numbers wearing their belts, and who can argue about those items being denied? But seatbelts and airbags on motorcycles? How would you be able to lay the bike down and slide off when you need to exit to avoid hitting some vehicle that pulls across your path? And would it be better to fly over a car thatyou hit broadside when they pull out in front of you, or to fly over it and roll to a stop? The only motorcycle accident that I have been in was one in which we hit a pool of oil and the bike slid out from under us. As it tipped, I put my feet down and slid off the back, which was a lot better than staying and sliding along with a motorcycle on top of my leg.
MY point is that motorcycles and cars are different, and leaving a bike can be safer than tumbling with it.
And about the 17 year old losing control of the truck, one more reason that kids should not drive large vehicles.
I have wondered for many years why some highway designers believed that a ten foot wide strip pf mowed grass would stop a vehicle going 70+ miles per hour. Now at last we are getting some decent barriers installed. But what were they thinking back then?
Certainly, if you were belted to a bike you'd want some kind of crash bars that would keep the weight of the bike off your legs. It would help if were a crime to kill motorcyclists instead of just a traffic infraction. But a person has to deal with what is rather than what should be.
One other thing is that safety does not sell. If it did, everbody would be driving Volvos, which we are not. My managers have explained that the only way to make money selling safety devices of any kind is to get laws passed forcing manufacturers to include them. Then it is simple to capture the market, if your device is adequately patented. At that point it is no longer anything about the safety, it is all about the money.
A lighter motorcycle should be able to steer out of a lot of problems, but there are enough drivers unablle or unwilling to pay enough attention to driving to notice a motorcycle. My suggestion would be for any driver who hits a motorcycle because they were not attentive to lose driving privaleges "for all eternity plus 90 days." There are quite enough good drivers that we can easily do without the poor ones.
It's understandable that motorcycles can fit more easily into blind spots and that a careless driver of an automobile it extreemely dangerous for the motorcyclist.
Far too often my biggest problem with motorcycles is that they come out of nowhere. The driver of the bike is going 40MPH faster than traffic and weaving in and out of traffic lanes. This makes them especially difficult to keep track of. Especially when they come up behind you.
I've personally seen more solo motorcycle accidents than collisions with other vehicles.
The fact is that airbads are to expensive, and if they were an option that was priced in the same manner as other options, very few would buy them. WE buy them now because there is no other choice.
Besides that, they don't improve safety that much unless folks are also wearing thier safety belts. The auto companies are working to change that, but full protection still requires wearring a safety belt. IN addition, they are working on ways to prevent the airbag from killing people whan they deploy. That problem has been reduced quite a bit over the years, but we still hear of it happening.
So it seems that the auto companies were right, but that the lawmakers forced us to buy them anyway. And, of course, a few companies did make a nice profit.
Not only are they too expensive when purchasing, they are too expensive to repair. An otherwise repairable vehicle will likely be scrapped if the airbags deployed... and oftentimes they deploy unnecessarily! (does it sound like I'm speaking from experience?).
I can certainly echo your sentiments about the replacement costs. My oldest granddaughter lives in Atlanta. While leaving classes she hydroplaned during a heavy rain on I-85 eastbound. The driver's side airbag was deployed, as it should have been, saving injury to her upper body. The car had to be towed. Even though, I thought the damages were repairable, to my great surprise, the replacement cost to the airbag would have cost approximately $1400.00. She drove a Honda Civic, 2002. I say drove because the insurance company, GEICO, chose to total the car instead of financing the repairs. We were able to sell the vehicle and received about the same amount of money it would have cost to put the bag back in operation. I suppose GEICO knows their business but I was very surprised at the overall costs to replace the airbag.
I'd call that a good story, as "The driver's side airbag was deployed, as it should have been, saving injury to her upper body."
My situation was much more frustrating as the driver door and curtain airbags deployed unnecessarily due to a vertical impact (driving over an open manhole). Neither of these airbags even touched the driver, but the vehicle was scrapped due to expense and "concerns over safety" (read as "difficult to confirm proper repair").
It makes sense - the manufacturer is much better off designing a system that deploys unnecessarily than one that doesn't deploy, resulting in injury (and a lawsuit). I would have repaired the car myself, except for the hassle of getting the repair certified, the salvage title retruned to normal and the concern over an insurance company denying coverage.
It is certainly correct about the replacement being too expensive.
For my last vehicle, a Plymouth Nean, the price for replacement parts was quoted at $1800. That would exceed the value of many otherwise quite usablle older cars. That was just for the airbag system, not including any other repairs.
I hate to comment on such an old thread, but since it was just in the DesignNews email letter again, I'm going to....
In 1991, the wife of my college professor lost her life due to an air bag. She was a shorter lady (about 5 foot tall) and I believe she was driving a smaller Chevrolet car. She was not wearing her seatbelt, and was involved in a slow speed ( < 35mph ) accident when the air bag deployed. Apparently, the combination of no seat belt, her height and the strength of those early air bag, took her life. They had two special needs children and I'll never forget attending that funeral, thinking about how a device intended to save lives had somehow killed a person. Such a sobering thought.
I still own my first ever new car, a 95 Trans-Am, and plan to pass it down to my son. I dread if the air bags would ever fire in the thing, since they are early gen style, with lots of force, and the fact that the insurance company would likely want to total the car. I would be quite okay with keeping the car and not replacing the air bags. It always spooks me when I have to perform work around the steering column and the factory service manuals have detailed procedures to follow when dealing with the air bags.
I've very glad that my Silverado has a key switch to let me turn off the passenger side air bag.
And to the point about the guy volunteering to drive around in a five point harness, he has apparently never driven in a properly fastened five point harness. It's really uncomfortable, you have extremely limited movement (steering wheel and shifter basically) and it would be very impracticle in a street car.
This article is over 18 MONTHS old and out of date. On older used cars I remove the airbags when I buy them as they are unsafe to drploy if over five years old. If some one who is not a family memmber rides in the front deat I point out the lack of air bags and offer the back seat which usually never had bags and I recomend seat belts. No-one has ever moved to the back. and I have never had a air bag deployment to date. My safe driving habits are demonstrated by my record of NEVER having been "Sighted" as the cause of an accident in 50 years of driving... I wish others drove like I and most residents of Oregon, the best drivers in the USA mostly live in Oregon, acording to statistics. I drive and live in florida and these drivers from many other states follow the rules of their home state as they were 50 years ago and never learned differently when they moved to florida to retire. also their grandchildren are not being trained and usung safe driving skilld 75% if the time...
Years ago when airbags were first introduced I was very skeptical as to their effectiveness. My first thought revolved around the possibility the bags would do more damage to occupants than the collision itself. I could not envision an inflated balloon popping out of a steering column and high speeds and not abrading the driver and causing serious damage to chest and facial areas. The technology has improved considerably from those early years and now I'm sure no manufacturer would ever design a residential vehicle without one, if that's even possible. I will also state that I'm a believer for two other reasons; our youngest son and our oldest granddaughter. Both were involved in head-on collisions in which airbags were deployed. They both were uninjured and lived to fight another day. I say hooray for the far-sighted engineers who thought they would work in the first place. Refinement of that technology is a god-send to those of us who commute day after day to and from work.
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