Turning Off Air Bags

Airbags have become a common feature in vehicles today, saving thousands of lives every year. But what few people know is that in certain circumstances, it is actually safer to disable the airbag. Read on to find out when to keep the airbag activated, and when to switch it off.

Airbags have been saving lives across the country since the 1980s. Designed to cushion the driver and passengers from the impact of an accident, airbags keep people’s heads, necks, and chests from bouncing against the steering wheel or dashboard.

And airbag technology continues to develop. New airbags are deployed in stages, depending on the speed of the car at impact. In fact, there are few cars on the market today without state-of-the-art airbags included to protect drivers and passengers from life-threatening head and chest injuries. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that a combination of seat belts and air bags is 75% effective in preventing serious head injuries, and 66% effective in preventing debilitating chest injuries.

However, airbags can potentially be very dangerous. In order to be effective, airbags must deploy quickly, and forcefully. If the driver or passenger is too close to the airbag when it inflates (closer than ten inches away) they can incur serious injuries, or even death. Most individuals injured by airbags, however, suffer only minor cuts, bruises, or abrasions that are less serious than the skull fractures and brain injuries they prevent.

But there are certain times when airbags could actually be more harmful than the alternative impact, and should be switched off. It is important to be informed as to when these safety devices should be on, and when it’s better to disable them.

The most important factor to take into consideration is whether seat belts can provide adequate protection in the absence of an airbag. The two devices are generally designed and intended to work together. In the case of an extremely high-impact crash, seatbelts are designed to give way to prevent excess force on the chest, and airbags take over, preventing too much forward movement after the seatbelt yields. In the absence of airbags, this situation can be extremely dangerous. Before deciding whether or not to switch off your airbags, contact your vehicle manufacturer to discover if your car has this particular design.

The next factor you should consider is the type of passenger sitting in the seats equipped with airbags. If the individual is a child, small, elderly, or disabled, they will likely not be sitting at least ten inches from the airbag when bucked. For passengers falling into one or more of these categories, it is safer to sit in the back seat of the car, but when this is not possible, airbags must be switched off to avoid serious injury.

For individuals able to keep a safe distance from the airbags, generally those over the age of twelve, including healthy older people and pregnant women, seatbelts should be buckled, and the airbag can remain activated.

As with all safety devices, airbags must be used as intended and with care. Make sure you are properly informed as to how they work, so you can make responsible and safe decisions as to when you should and should not use an airbag.