Safety has become the prime concern in passenger cars today. Almost all the cars that roll-out today are incorporated with safety features for people to have a safe drive. A safety device in cars is a norm in most countries today and cars that violate these rules have to shell out hefty fines.
Air bags are effective safety devices that have been tested and tried and have proved to be life-savers. From their introduction in the late 1980’s to date, they have saved quite a number of lives. As a result, these safety devices have become a common feature in American cars.
However, this is only one side of the story. Air bags are very effective in preventing life-threatening head and chest injuries. A study of real-world crashes by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that a combination of seat belts and air bags is 75 percent effective in preventing serious head injuries and 66 percent effective in preventing debilitating chest injuries. These stats mean that 75 of every 100 people who would have potentially suffered a serious head injury, and 66 out of 100 people who would have potentially had serious chest injuries, were saved because they had seat belts and air bags to protect them.
Air bags are designed in such a way that they save lives and prevent injuries by cushioning the driver and passengers when the impact of an accident throws them forward. Through the cushion, air bags keep people’s head, neck, and chest from bouncing against the steering wheel or dashboard or other hard objects. For effective performance, air bags have to deploy quickly and forcefully.
However, the biggest drawback of air bags is that the occupants who are quite close to or on top of the air bag when it inflates can be potentially impacted with enough force to injure or kill them. Only those who are at a safe distance, say more than 10 inches away, will be safely protected by the air bag during accidents.
So, people believe that though these air bags save a lot of lives, the benefits come at an expense of a less severe yet dangerous injury caused by the air bag itself. Most of the injuries caused by air bags include minor cuts, bruises, or abrasions and these are less serious than the skull fractures and brain injuries that they actually help prevent.
This has led to queries as to when the air bags need to be turned on and when they should be switched off. From January 1998, people were given the option to use an on-off switch for the air bags installed in their vehicle. This switch will help them take an informed decision about when to switch these safety devices on or off.
Before making the crucial decision of switching the air bags on or off, the most important factor that you must consider is whether the seat belts would provide adequate protection when the air bag is turned off. You must understand that the protection you receive from seat belts is increased only with the deployment of air bags. When air bags are turned off, you tend to lose this extra protection. There are some cars that are fabricated in such a way that seat belts are designed to work together with air bags. So, when the crash force is too high, these seat belts give in. This happens so that your chest is not subject to too much force. And, the air bags then prevent too much forward movement after the belts yield. So, in the absence of air bags, passengers are highly likely to hit the vehicle or other hard objects.
Make sure that you ask your vehicle manufacturer if the cars have this particular design. In such cases, the dealer or the repair shop will provide you instructions on turning air bags on or off. They will offer information on the effects of switching the air bags off. This will help you decide if you would want to install an on/off switch for your air-bags.
Another factor that you must consider when switching air bags on or off is the kind of passenger sitting in the seat that has the air bags. When the people likely to be impacted are small, elderly, disabled, or most importantly, children, then you must switch the air bags off to avoid any injuries to these people. They come under the categories that they are not steady enough to be buckling up and sitting back at least ten inches from the air bag.
For people who are not at risk and who can manage to keep a safe distance from the air bags, you would not need an on/off switch. This category could include short people, tall people, older people, pregnant women and all people over age 12, who can guard themselves. These people can buckle their seat belts and sit back at least 10 inches from the air bags. Then there are fewer risks of injuries due to air bag impact.
Safety devices nearly always have a few drawbacks. So it is helpful to understand how they work so that they can be used effectively.