National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports installation of side airbags in all vehicles in the United States could prevent 700 to 1,000 deaths a year. Despite the obvious life-saving benefits, NHTSA has not taken action to either standardize requirements for design and installation of side airbags, or to require all vehicles use side airbags as a standard feature.
An experienced side-impact accident attorney knows side airbags (SABs) can provide the only protection you have from tremendous force when another vehicle strikes the side of your car at a perpendicular area. In a crash with a car hit from the side, the vehicles form a "T" shape. The car hitting the side panel intrudes on the passenger compartment of the vehicle being hit, and those inside the car absorb the force of impact. Side airbags reduce the danger, if designed properly and operating effectively.
NHTSA Should Act on Side Airbags
A T-Bone crash is a common type of car crash routinely causing brain damage and other devastating or fatal injuries, according to SaferCar.gov. In 60 percent of side impact collisions resulting in the death of vehicle occupants, the victim who was killed sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
A side airbag can protect the head and reduce the risk of trauma resulting in TBI. Tubular or curtain side airbags protect the head. Tubular side airbags usually come down from the roof of a vehicle and protect both front and rear-seat occupants from having their heads struck in a T-bone collision.
A side airbag also protects the torso. Chest and torso airbags come out of the side door panels of vehicles. Parents may wish to avoid allowing children to lean against doors equipped with side airbags. Some combination side airbags exist to protect both torso and head.
There are few requirements for how these different airbag systems should be designed, installed or tested. Technical Working Group (TWG) has developed voluntary guidelines and manufacturers in compliance can state compliance in their vehicle owner's manuals and vehicle feature's lists (on SaferCar.gov, an "M" denotes the fact the side airbags are in compliance with TWG).
NHTSA should become more involved in ensuring side airbags are as safe as possible and are installed in all vehicles. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports 27 percent of 2009 car accident deaths happened in T-Bone collisions. NHTSA has a responsibility to try to prevent these fatalities and since it knows side airbags will save hundreds of motorists each year, the agency should consider establishing and moving forward with new rules.
NHTSA should also provide clearer and more comprehensive information for parents. Prior to 1999, parents were warned to keep kids away from seats next to side airbags. NHTSA studied side airbag deployment and effectiveness in 92 accidents, but only six had children involved, so the agency has little information on whether side airbags are safe or present an unreasonable risk to children. NHTSA needs to do more on this important issue to help reduce severity of injuries in broadside collisions.