If every car on the roads in the United States was equipped with effective side airbags (SABs), between 700 and 1,000 car accident fatalities would be avoided in T-Bone collisions annually. An experienced side-impact accident attorney knows side airbags are currently optional and are not installed in all vehicles, putting motorists at added risk of losing their lives when vehicles are hit from the side.
Even when a car is equipped with side airbags, the airbags may not work as well as desired because there are minimal formal regulations regarding side airbag design and function. The safety features may end up putting children at risk in certain situations as well.
When choosing a vehicle to purchase, research side airbags carefully so you know what to expect and what you are buying. T-Bone accidents, or accidents in which one car strikes the side of another, account for 27 percent of U.S. auto accident fatalities according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The side airbags your vehicle has installed could help you from being seriously injured or killed.
Can Side Airbags Save Your Life in a T-Bone Accident?
SaferCar.gov reports 60 percent of people killed in broadside accidents sustain traumatic brain injury (TBI). Injuries to the head, shoulders, and chest are common in t-bone collisions and can be deadly. When a vehicle hits your car's side, the side panel gives way and the other vehicle can intrude on the car's passenger compartment. Your head and torso can sustain the bulk of the force of impact, especially as a side door panel doesn't crumple and absorb force the way a hood or trunk area does. Your head and torso can also violently strike objects or be struck.
Side airbags aim to protect the head and torso. There are some combination head/chest side airbags that come out door panels or come out from seat sides. Other vehicles have separate airbags for the head and chest, including curtain and tubular airbags. Tubular airbags come down from the roof area of a car above windows and provide protection for front and rear passengers.
Until 1999, NHTSA cautioned parents about dangers of letting children sit close to or lean against a door with a side airbag. NHTSA has now revised its warning and provides updated information on Safer Car. But data is limited on how side airbags impact children's safety. NHTSA conducted a study of crashes in which side airbags deployed but only 92 collisions were included and only six involved children.
NHTSA should be doing more to assess side airbag safety and regulate these safety devices. Side airbags are not required in vehicles and minimal testing is done. Safety protocols for side airbags are actually voluntary and were developed by Technical Working Group (TWG). Car shoppers should look for an indication in owners' manuals and vehicle features lists to determine if airbags follow TWG guidelines.