Exploring the Statistics: How Common Are Airbag Injuries?

Jan 31, 2024Deployment Injuries

While airbags can help protect drivers and passengers from serious injuries, it is no secret that airbags also cause injuries in some cases. In fact, in some cases, drivers and passengers would be better off if their airbags hadn’t deployed. In these cases, drivers and passengers can—and should—seek just compensation, and hiring an experienced airbag defect lawyer is the first step toward asserting their legal rights.

Just how common are airbag injuries? Here is an overview of some of the latest data available:

Head Injuries in Auto Accidents Involving Airbag Deployment

A study examining the prevalence of head injuries in auto accidents involving airbag deployment found that airbags only reduce the risk of these injuries by about 40 percent. While the study did not distinguish between head injuries caused by airbag deployment and head injuries caused by other factors, it is almost certain that a significant number of the injuries examined in the study were airbag-related. The study’s findings include:

  • 10.4 percent of vehicle occupants whose airbag did not deploy and who were not wearing a seatbelt suffered head injuries.
  • 6.3 percent of vehicle occupants whose airbag deployed but were not wearing a seatbelt suffered head injuries.
  • 3.5 percent of vehicle occupants whose airbag deployed and who were wearing a seatbelt suffered head injuries.

These statistics underscore the importance of seatbelt use. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains, “[a]ir bags are supplemental protection and are designed to work best in combination with seat belts.” Manufacturers design airbags to protect drivers and passengers who are restrained. If a driver or passenger slides under the dashboard or gets ejected from the vehicle, the vehicle’s airbags aren’t going to help.

In addition to failing to prevent head injuries, airbags can also cause head injuries in some cases. Airbag explosions, delayed airbag deployment, airbag underinflation, and secondary impacts caused by airbag deployment can all cause serious head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI). As a result, drivers and passengers who suffer head injuries will be able to recover just compensation with the help of an experienced airbag defect lawyer in many cases.

Fatal Airbag Injuries

Are you really better off if your airbags deploy during a crash? The answer isn’t always “Yes.” In fact, one study found that airbags do “more harm than good” when it comes to the risk of vehicle occupants suffering fatal injuries in a crash. According to the study’s author:

“NHTSA recorded 238 deaths due to airbags between 1990 and 2002 . . . . They all occurred at very low speeds, with injuries that could not have been caused by anything else.”

As the study’s author goes on to explain, “[f]or any given crash at high speed, we can’t know what would have happened if there had been no airbag; however, statistical models allow us to look at patterns in the data and compare risks in populations, in a variety of situations.” Examining these patterns and data, the author concluded that:

  • Airbags “cause no statistical difference” in the rate of car accident fatalities at high speeds; and,
  • At low speeds, “the odds of death are estimated to be more than four times higher with an airbag than without.”

These are startling findings, and they call into question the findings of studies concluding that airbags save lives. The NHTSA continues to maintain that airbags saved 50,457 lives from 1987 to 2017—the latest period for which NHTSA data are available. But, according to this study, which was published by the University of Georgia, its findings “directly contradict[] earlier studies about the effectiveness of airbags,” and “the value of airbags seems dubious.”

More Airbag Injury Statistics

However, studies published since the release of the University of Georgia study lean in the other direction. While the reason for this is not entirely clear, it may be due to advancements in airbag technology in the intervening period. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports:

  • “In frontal crashes, front airbags reduce driver fatalities by 29% and fatalities of front-seat passengers age 13 and older by 32%.”
  • “Side airbags with head protection reduce a car driver’s risk of death in driver-side crashes by 37% and an SUV driver’s risk by 52%.”
  • “[S]ide airbags with head and torso protection reduce a car driver’s risk of death or injury in driver-side crashes by 41%.”
  • “Curtain airbags and torso airbags together reduce the risk of death by 31%, and combination head/torso airbags reduce the risk by 25%.”
  • Since the IIHS began its side crash testing program in 2003, “all the vehicles earning good ratings have been equipped with side airbags that protect the head.”

Airbag Injuries Present Serious Risks and Can Lead to Long-Term Costs

While these airbag injury statistics are interesting, if you are dealing with the effects of a serious airbag-related injury, the statistics really don’t matter. Airbag injuries can lead to significant financial and non-financial costs, and they can leave victims and their families facing long and difficult roads to recovery.

Fortunately, airbag injury victims and their families will be entitled to financial compensation in many cases. Manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that their products are safe, and selling defective airbags breaches this duty. If you have a claim, an experienced airbag defect lawyer can help you fight for the financial compensation you deserve. Our firm provides no out-of-pocket cost legal representation, and our clients pay nothing at all unless we win. We can assess your legal rights free of charge, and if you have a claim for an airbag defect, we can start fighting for you right away.

Talk to an Experienced Airbag Defect Lawyer About Your Legal Rights for Free

We have extensive experience handling airbag injury claims on behalf of accident victims and their families. If you need to know more about your legal rights, we invite you to schedule a free consultation. To speak with an experienced airbag defect lawyer in confidence, give us a call or request an appointment online today.