Airbags – Pop em’ or Keep em’
During the rainstorm, it’s hard to see anything-especially when the
downpour makes the windshield wipers work constantly. On this cold, dreary
September night young two year old Mica is safely buckled in her child safety
seat, which is attached to the passenger seat belt. Her older brother, Sean,
quietly sleeps in the backseat while his mother drives the exhausted children
home. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tall, 12 point buck is caught by the
vehicles’ headlights. Both the buck and the mother freeze. A milli-second
later, a powerful explosion occurs inside the cabin. The airbags deflate nearly
as quickly as they inflate, and Sean begins to scream. His mother is fine. The
seatbelt along with the airbag saved her from any serious harm. She is still
dazed as she looks over to her two year old, expecting more screaming. Nothing.
Nothing happens. She shakes her little girl and realizes that something is
drastically wrong. Mica is dead.
At last count, this scenario has happened 31 times. How many more times
does it have to happen before the automotive industry does something about it?
Children are not the only victims, though. Small women and the elderly have
also 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? They
protect everybody, right? People don’t need seatbelts if their car has an
airbag, right? Wrong. Airbags cause injuries, airbags kill, and airbags don’t
work unless seatbelts are worn. In a rollover accident, people still have a
chance of being thrown from the car even if their car has airbags. Not only are
the airbags dangerous, they are also a key target for thieves. The easy to
remove airbags coupled with the high street value make them sought after by
thieves. The couple of hundred dollars received by the thieves is more than
enough 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 of
safety. When the idea of installing airbags was first introduced, it seemed to
be a good, life-saving idea. However, according to CNN, airbags have snapped
the necks of 30 children. CNN also said that 15 smaller women would have
survived 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 have
been credited with saving 1,100 lives since they have been introduced (“Federal
Safety Officials…..” 1). However, an article by CNNfn goes on to state, the
airbags 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 broke
the story on airbag performance. The news report told us that airbags deliver
enough non-lethal injuries to the passengers that it offsets their performance
on overall injuries (“Reports Knock Airbag Safety” 1). The net result: airbags
have been found to cause injuries in so many accidents that the little good they
do is overshadowed by the injuries they cause.
Now that you understand some of the problems with the performance of
airbags, let’s look at another problem-why they are unreliable.
The reliability of airbags is questioned since they do not protect all
sizes of bodies. When the first airbags were tested, the engineers didn’t take
into account the different sizes of people the bags would have to protect. They
used a one-sized dummy, similar to “Larry and Vince.” The engineers didn’t
think about the possibility of babies in the front seat or smaller-framed people
being 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 the
car is involved in a fender bender or a head on collision (“Reports Knock
Airbag 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 overall
These “smart sensors” are still on the drawing board. It will be years
before they are being put into full effect. Until that time, drivers will have
to continue to use good driving skills. According to Automotive News, the
advent of “smart sensors” will accompany “smarter airbags.” These airbags will
not only be located in the steering wheel and the glove box, but on the side of
the seats. The airbags will also be smart enough to know whether a passenger
airbag should deploy, in case no one is seated there. (“Next generation
airbags….” 18). Hopefully, the cost will not overshadow the safety devices.
Cost is a major decision when deciding what car to buy. Since the price
of insurance is rising, most people want a car that is cost effective when it
comes to insurance. Insurance companies actually charge substantially more to
insure an airbag equipped car. The insurance rate for an airbag equipped cars
will continue to rise, due to the reports of airbag related deaths. The main
reason the insurance is so high for an airbag equipped car is that the cost of
replacing a deployed airbag is expensive. According to CNNfn, the air bags cost
nearly 1,000 dollars to replace (“Reports Knock Airbag Safety” 1). A simple
fender bender can result in thousands of dollars of medical bills and another
thousand to fix the car.
Airbags not only cause injury and raise insurance, they also make your
car a target. If you have an airbag in your car, a thief can be 200 dollars
richer in two minutes. According to Automotive News, a couple of screwdrivers
and two minutes of time is all it takes to steal an airbag. Quite an incentive
for the average Joe Blow. Joe has no use for the bags, though. So who buys
them? Any repair shop owner that wants to stay competitive, that’s who. When
stolen bags and sensors are sold illegally to repair shops, the repair shops
endanger everybody. According to Automotive News, airbags aren’t easily
transferred from one vehicle to another. Sensors might be different or the size
of the bag may be improper. People have no way of knowing if the airbags will
even go off (Keebler 41). After paying upwards of a thousand dollars to replace
an 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 become
more dangerous on the roads when they have them. People not only drive faster,
they also take more risks, according to Reason magazine. These risks include
increased speeding and not wearing their seatbelts. Drivers with airbag
equipped cars feel that the airbag gives them an advantage, and that they can
drive like a maniac (Carson 14). An airbag will not work properly if a seatbelt
isn’t worn. This belief can kill, as it has before. Many people would probably
still be alive today if they would have worn their seatbelt in conjunction with
their airbag. In an accident, the airbag will not prevent the passenger from
being ejected from the vehicle.
Throughout life, the one thing that I have learned is that nothing is
100% reliable. If people just wear seatbelts, they face a chance of being
ejected 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 people
in a low speed crash. Let’s not forget that there have already been way too
many accidents that were preventable. Let’s not have to face the situation of
having to look over and realize that our Mica is dead.