Activated airbags can inflict severe eye injuries, including blindness, even in minor car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that since 1990, airbag deployment has killed 227 people in low-severity crashes, including 76 drivers, 10 adult passengers, 119 children between the ages of 1 and 11, and 22 infants. Of the 76 adult drivers killed, 28 were women under 52 inches tall, and 4 of the 10 adult passengers killed were shorter females.
As early as the 1960's, the automotive industry and government regulators were aware that passive occupant protection was needed. Airbags were a possible solution that would protect occupants from severe impacts with a vehicles interior during a collision. The technology for using airbags as a passive restraint was developed from the late 1960's-1970's. Experimental safety vehicles in the early 1970's demonstrated that airbags could prevent occupant injury in all but the most severe collisions. In the late 1970's General Motors placed airbags in a production vehicle.
The automotive industry fought government regulations requiring airbags. In fact, during a now infamous meeting between Lee Iacocca and Richard Nixon, Mr. Iacocca specifically requested President Nixon to slow down the safety regulations regarding airbags and passive restraints. The auto industry was successful in delaying the requirements for airbags until the early 1990's, some 20 years after the technology was first available.
All too often the manufacturers poorly design their airbag systems. Airbag systems consist primarily of three different systems. Choices made in the design of the sensing system, airbags, and propulsion system can significantly affect occupant safety. For example, the use of top-mounted, vertically-deploying airbags can drastically reduce the number of injuries caused by a deploying airbag and continue to provide protection. This is just one example of the many design measures that can reduce or eliminate airbag-induced injuries.
Airbag cases are difficult and require a full knowledge of how airbag systems work and the design choices confronting a manufacturer.
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