How to avoid becoming an airbag injury statistic

With airbag manufacturer Takata being in the middle of the biggest recall in automotive history and recently being fined $1 billion in the US as a result, it raises the issue of just how safe they are.

“Airbags have been around since the 1980’s and there’s no denying they’re an excellent safety feature but they need to be treated with the respect they deserve,” said RACQ’s Principal Technical Researcher, Russell Manning.

“People need to be aware that airbags deploy with explosive force so injuries such as friction burns and minor abrasions are very common, even when they’re correctly used.  But if you happen to have your arm across the airbag when it deploys, you could well end up having it broken.”

There are, however, some simple tips road users can follow to help alleviate the risk of injuries in the unfortunate event of an airbag being deployed.

“It sounds obvious but it’s the simple things that will keep you safe and the same can be said of having a basic driving posture to help limit any airbag injuries.

“Number one is of course to always drive safely and to the road conditions which limits the potential of a crash and the need for an airbag at all.

“But should an airbag be needed, then I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping limbs away from airbags.

“Broken arms usually result when the driver’s arms are crossed diagonally across the steering wheel so I would urge drivers to stick to the tried and tested ‘10’ and ‘two’ position to minimise risk should the airbag deploy.

“We’ve recently seen examples of passengers driving with their feet on the dashboard and this really is a frightening practice, one which is a recipe for disaster in a crash so I would urge anyone travelling in a vehicle to not block an airbag’s path.

“And finally, much like a golfer lining up their swing, driving position is very important. Position your seat so that with your arms outstretched, the cove of your wrists rest on the top of the steering wheel.

“This not only provides a comfortable driving position but also ensures you are far enough away from the airbag in the event of a crash.

“These are all simple things that can help you avoid becoming an airbag injury statistic.”

Airbag facts

For the driver or passenger airbags to deploy in a crash, all the following minimum criteria must be met:

  • The vehicle must be travelling at more than about 25km/h
  • The angle of impact is within around thirty degrees either side of the car’s centre line (around 60 degrees in total)
  • The forces produced are at least equal to those produced when the car collides head-on with an immovable barrier at approximately 25km/h.