While air bags are designed to save lives in a vehicle crash, the bags themselves are creating injuries as they become more complex and because there are more of them. Consequently, more vehicle recalls were made in 2012 because of faulty airbags than in any previous year, according to an article in the Feb. 10 USA Today.
Since 2011, more than 7.75 million vehicles have been recalled due to some type of auto defect. Air bags aren’t worse than they used to be, there are just more of them being installed into vehicles.
Automakers recently announcing recalls include Honda, Toyota, Pontiac and Chrysler. Honda recalled 748,481 vehicles last month because the air bag cover was missing rivets. Airbag covers with missing rivets could cause the airbag to deploy when it shouldn’t and hurt passengers. Fortunately, no one was harmed.
Toyota and Pontiac recalled 887,709 vehicles, including the 2003 and 2004 Toyota Corollas and Matrixes and the Pontiac Vibe. The airbag problem in these cars had to do with circuit boards shorting out, causing the air bag to accidently deploy. No one was harmed before these vehicles were recalled.
Chrysler Group recalled 744,822 Jeeps last November. In these cars, 126 air bags deployed when they shouldn’t have, causing minor injuries to passengers in a 2002 to 2003 Liberty. In 2002 to 2004 Grand Cherokees, 89 airbags deployed, causing minor injuries to 22 passengers. Faulty circuit boards also were the problem in this group of cars.
Complications that may occur with the inflation of airbags include airbags inflating when no crash has occurred and airbags prematurely inflating, then deflating before they have the chance to cushion the rider.
The question isn’t one of air bags increasing overall vehicle safety. In one sample year, for example, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 2,788 lives were saved by air bags. The concern is that they may or may not inflate when they are supposed to and that the inflation simply causes harm on its own, even when no accident has occurred.
Reasons for the increasing problems with airbags include the fact that vehicle manufacturers are adding more airbags in cars. The Dodge Dart, says USA Today, has 10 airbags. The new Toyota RAV4 Crossover has eight.
In addition, airbags are being put in new places. Center airbags to keep front seat passengers from bumping into each other during a crash have been added by General Motors in some 2013 models, including the Buick Enclave, the Chevrolet Traverse and the GMC Acadia.
Adding all these extras just presents more opportunities for something to go wrong.
“You are relying on millions of lines of codes to make decision within milliseconds,” Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies told USA Today. With all their possible problems, some airbags may “hold the potential to create more injuries than they can prevent,” he said.