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Since the first vehicle was designed, there have been car accidents. Some are just minor and don’t result in any injuries beyond a headache from dealing with your insurance provider, while others result in deaths. Airbags have had a positive effect on the number of vehicle deaths by saving lives. For some passengers, however, airbags can be deadly.

A deflated Takata airbag
A deflated airbag | Getty Images

Airbags make driving vehicles more safe

Airbags look like fluffy pillows, and they sort of are. These pillows are being blasted out at you at high speeds, however, which can either save your life in the event of a wreck or cause more damage.

While there have been many bumps in the road for airbags, there is no denying they are effective when installed properly and used in conjunction with a seat belt. In fact, the NHTSA reports 2,790 lives were saved in 2017 alone from airbags. 

It’s important to note that airbags aren’t always useful, however, and can be deadly for some passengers.

Airbags can be harmful to some passengers

For adults, airbags are a wonderful invention. This isn’t the case for small children, however. 

The NHTSA states, “Placing a child in the front seat, no matter what the circumstances, comes with increased risk. NHTSA recommends that children under 13 years old ride in the back seat in the appropriate child restraint systems for their age and size: rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, booster seats, or adult seat belts.”

This is because smaller children will be blasted in the face if the airbag deploys. For dog owners who love to go cruising with their besties, this applies to pets as well. They are safer in the back seat than seated next to you.

There have been major advances in airbag technology, but this continues to be a problem. In fact, in 2021, Audi recalled 30,000 Q7 SUVs because the airbags were firing so fast it could potentially cause neck injuries to small children.

Some defective airbags have the potential to kill

Audi wasn’t the only automaker to issue a recall due to airbags. Several vehicles manufacturers have been issuing major recalls for several years now. This is because they used Takata airbags. These were once one of the more popular airbag manufacturers, but all that changed when they began exploding.

The first death in the U.S. as a result of a Takata airbag was reported in 2009. This was a year after Honda began recalling Accords and Civics. 

The airbag seems fine, but will suddenly explode, sending pieces of metal flying around the car. These pieces can find their way into passengers’ faces, necks, and other soft tissue. So why is this happening?

It’s been reported that a combination of humidity and heat play a role in the airbag exploding. Some think this is due to a foil seal, which is allowing moisture to leak in. This, in turn, causes the ammonium nitrate used to inflate the airbag to activate prematurely.

So far, it’s believed that there are 17 deaths caused by the Takata airbags exploding, and 250 injuries. Given that this has been going on for so long now, it’s easy to assume that most of the airbags have been replaced, but that’s not quite the case. 

There are potentially 11 million Takata airbags in vehicles on the roads. This is because some drivers may not be aware of the recall, and have not brought their vehicle in. If you believe your vehicle may have a Takata airbag, you can always check on the NHTSA site by entering your 17-character VIN.


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