No one would argue for the removal of airbags from vehicles. They have saved too many lives over the years, more than 25,000 between 1975, when they were first used, to 2007. That’s an average of nearly 1,000 people per year, whose families are surely grateful for the invention of the airbag.
However, other studies are finding that airbags can actually cause injury, not simply prevent death. With the advanced technology of the airbag introduced into modern vehicles, an entirely new domain of law has sprung up as well, that of the lawyer willing to press charges for a client injured by an airbag’s deployment. Even if you are happy to have escaped many broken bones after a recent auto accident, thanks to your airbag’s deployment, you can still build a case for prosecution if an airbag inflates and injures your shoulder, chest, neck or face. If you believe that you have suffered from an airbag’s inflation, you can contact an airbag lawyer to determine if you have a case.
If you are shorter than average or taller than average, the likelihood of suffering an injury from an airbag’s deployment increase significantly. Many of the people who press airbag cases in court are either short or tall, and studies seem to indicate that if you have an unusual height, you would probably be better off riding in the back seat of a vehicle if you are a passenger.
These ideas are not built on conjecture, but on solid medical evidence. The most prominent study in this area was done by Dr. Craig Newgard for the Oregon Health and Science University. He looked at the injury statistics from 1995-2005 in a motor vehicle crash database in search of links between serious injury, airbag deployment and physical characteristics of drivers and passengers. The oft-cited study found these results:
Numerous other organizations and public safety officials have digested the numbers from Dr. Newgard’s study and come to similar conclusions. Despite the inclusion of so-called “smart” airbags in the study in certain models of cars, it can no longer be doubted that airbags are a hazard for people of short or tall stature. The “smart” airbags deploy with a force and size based on the driver or passenger’s weight, but with that criterion not a factor in the study’s findings, airbags probably need to be engineered to be “smart” in a different way—based on height, not weight.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is one organization that has kept a close eye on studies done regarding airbags. After looking at Dr. Newgard’s numbers, the NHTSA issued the following recommendations to reduce the chance of suffering an injury from an airbag deployement:
The bottom line? Drivers of short and tall stature need to take every precaution possible as they operate their vehicles because they are squarely in an at-risk group when it comes to airbag deployment. They need to reflect on where their seat is, the angle of their seat and do everythjng possible to maintain a 12-inch distance between their bodies and the steering wheel.
As for passengers, they need to either sit in the back of a vehicle or move the seat back as far as possible to decrease their chance of injury by airbag. People who realize that they are in an at-risk group in any endeavor understand that they need to take extra precaution in certain circumstances. With airbags installed all modern vehicles, short and tall people, both as drivers and passengers, need to be extra-careful to protect themselves.
If you are injured in a car accident, please contact an experienced car accident lawyer who will protect your rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation for economic damages as well as pain and suffering. Please note that strict time limits may apply.