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.)
This article is over 18 MONTHS old and out of date.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?).
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.
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