Is there a way that airbags can be made safer?

The technology of airbags has gone through an amazing metamorphosis since its introduction to automobiles back in 1968. Ford was the first auto manufacturer to develop an experimental airbag fleet in 1971. General Motors followed suit in 1973 offering the Oldsmobile Toronado, the first car with a passenger air bag offered for sale to the general public. General Motors later offered an option to the general public of driver side airbags in full-sized Oldsmobiles and Buicks in 1975 and 1976 respectively. Cadillac was available with driver and passenger airbags options during those same years. Early airbag systems had design issues resulting in fatalities caused solely by the airbags. Those older vehicles were equipped with what would be known as “first-generation airbags”, which quickly gained a reputation for causing harm and even killing children and very small adults, most notably those not wearing seatbelts, as a result of the extreme force with which the airbags deployed.

The beginning of the 21st century saw a major redesign in the concept of airbag deployment mechanisms. Newer, “second generation” airbags, come with a “computer operated” dual deploy, or dual stage, feature. These airbags have the ability to deploy at one of two stages, or not deploy at all, depending upon data transmitted from sensors located near the passenger’s seatbelt and front seat. In cases of less serious accidents, the airbag can deploy at a single stage, reduced speed, normally 70% of full force. If the accident seems more severe, both stages can be activated causing the airbag to deploy at full force. The sensors even have the ability to detect the weight of the passenger in the seat, and deployment, if any, is based upon the weight of the passenger, avoiding severe deployment in the event the passenger is a child or small adult. The sensor can even detect the distance the seat is from the airbag, and modify the speed at which the airbag deploys accordingly. In the event no weight is detected in the seat, some models will not even deploy the airbag at that location.

In less severe accidents, airbags deploy at the lower first stage, usually about 70 percent of full force. In more severe accidents, both stages are deployed. Seat sensors in some systems also can detect the weight of passengers and deploy only if the occupant is above a certain weight – helping to prevent airbag-related injuries to a child or small adult. In some vehicle systems, if no one is sitting in the passenger seat, the airbag won’t deploy. Systems offered in some luxury models help protect smaller drivers by only deploying the driver’s front airbag at the lower stage. Smaller drivers are detected by the forward position of the seat on the seat track. Changes in the size and shape of airbags are also being explored to improve safety. These technology advances are all part of an effort to improve airbag safety and benefits.

Today, Ford Motor Company is on the cutting edge of airbag redesign, striving to create a safer airbag. The 2012 Ford Focus features the next generation of airbags with an advanced airbag technology that will help customize the protection in most frontal and side crashes.
The driver-front airbag will feature an innovative technology that offers a chest protection function to help reduce damage to the chest and ribs, while new side airbags help increase chest protection with shoulder vents that deliver varying levels of pressure based on the size of the occupant and how much their shoulder blocks the vent. The new airbag technology will be standard on the 2012 Ford Focus and will roll out on all Ford Motor Company vehicles within the next few years.

Despite all of the innovative ideas to make airbags safer, they still pose a danger in the event they fail to perform in the way manufactures intended them to, and many vehicles with older technology airbags are still on the road causing unnecessary injuries every day. If you, or a loved one, are injured as the result of an airbag malfunction, you need the help of an experienced and aggressive attorney to insure you receive all the compensation you are entitled to, and all of your rights are protected. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners would be honored to help you. Please call our firm at (407) 888-8000. It is a call you will be glad you made.