An airbag is a supplemental safety device installed in automobiles in an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from accidents and collisions. The purpose of an airbag is to reduce the chance the driver or passenger’s upper body or head will strike the interior of the car during a crash. By limiting the range of motion after the impact of the crash through frontal and side airbag expansion, people in the car are less likely to strike a hard surface.
These supplemental safety devices deploy after being triggered by electronic sensors in the moments after impact. An on-board computer, called the Electronic Control Unit (ECU), analyzes crash data immediately and determines whether airbags should be released. Deployment occurs at an extremely rapid rate; most airbags usually release within 60-80 milliseconds after the first instance of collision. Estimates of safety claim that airbags reduce fatalities by 8% when worn in conjunction with a seatbelt.
Although airbags are useful safety devices, they can sometimes cause extra injuries to the passengers. Common injuries include abrasions, hearing damage, eye injuries, broken noses, thermal burns, and injuries to those who wear glasses. The first airbag fatality occurred in 1994. Most injuries from airbags occur when passengers are extremely close to the location of deployment or when airbags deploy at the wrong time due to electronic sensor errors.