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.
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.
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