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Airbags and Children- Safety Measures

susan_harr5 years ago

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that as of Jan. 1, 2009, more than 28,000 people were alive because of frontal airbags. No doubt, airbags are one of the best preventative safety measures for adults, but what about kids? For children, it’s a toss up – the airbag could either kill them or save their life.

Airbags – A History

Vehicle manufacturers began putting airbags in cars, trucks and vans in the late ‘80s. The airbags were a revolutionary advancement in vehicle safety- but we soon realized there was a catch. Reports of airbag injuries and fatalities began pouring in. The primary victims- children.

By 1999, the government required all cars, vans, and light trucks to have airbags, though most already did, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Vehicles without rear seats, or with small rear seats, such as pickup trucks or sports cars, were installed with passenger air bag ON/OFF switches so that child seats could be placed in the front passenger seat. Even today, if a consumer has an older vehicle that does not have an ON/OFF switch, they can request installation of the switch if they meet certain requirements (small or no backseat or too many children to safely place them all in the backseat).

Nowadays, all new cars have frontal air bags for front-seat passengers, and most have side airbags, although the government doesn’t regulate those. NHTSA maintains that when used with lap/shoulder belts, air bags work very well to protect older children and adults. But for unrestrained children or infants in rear-facing seats- air bags can be deadly.

The Dangers of Airbags

In a crash, the air bag inflates very quickly. This typically occurs within the first 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) in a frontal crash and within the first 20 milliseconds (0.02 seconds) in a side crash, according to IIHS. Because of their proximity to the deployment zone, airbags can be especially dangerous for unrestrained children and children in rear-facing child seats.

“Infants in rear-facing restraints and unbelted or unrestrained children in the front seats of vehicles with passenger airbags are at the most risk,” stated an IIHS report.

Because the back of a rear-facing child seat sits very close to the dashboard, the seat could be struck with enough force to break the child seat and cause serious or even fatal injuries to a baby. According to NHTSA, unrestrained children are also at risk because they can slide forward just before the crash impact (the period known as pre-crash braking) to within a few inches of – or directly on top of – a rapidly inflating air bag.

Guidelines for Parent Drivers

  • Drivers should sit with their chests at least 10 inches away from the center of the steering wheel.
  • For drivers of older vehicles or pregnant drivers who cannot get far enough away from the steering wheel, pedal extenders or an airbag on/off switch may be an option. The government is allowing installation of ON/OFF switches until Sept. 1, 2012.
  • The rear seat is the safest place for children of any age to ride.
  • An infant in a rear-facing child seat must ride in the back seat if your vehicle has a passenger air bag.
  • Make sure that everyone in the front seat is properly buckled up and seated as far back from the air bags as is reasonably possible.
  • Don’t let small children lean forward to adjust radio or air settings.
  • Make sure that all young children are properly secured in an age and size appropriate restrains.
  • Know how to properly install your child seat in the vehicle.
  • Read both the owner’s manual for the vehicle and the instructions for your child safety seat.
Contact an Experienced Child Auto Accident Attorney

Because of the serious nature of car accidents involving injured children, choosing a law firm experienced in these matters is crucial in order to get the results you deserve. Thomas J. Henry have a proven track record of success in handling car accident cases and fighting for injured children. Contact us 24/7, nights and weekends for immediate assistance.


If you’ve been injured, we can help. Contact us