Why forward facing child seats and airbags are a deadly combination?

During a frontal impact, front airbags deploy at speeds approaching 225 mph; in less time than it takes to blink an eye. The majority of all crash speeds are below a 20 mph Delta Velocity. Therefore, since airbag deployment thresholds are 8-12 mph Delta Velocity, there are far too many unnecessary deployments. 

Airbag Deployment Velocity Chart
Airbag Deployment Velocity Chart

In the 1970’s, the federal government proposed a “no fire” deployment threshold of 15 mph Delta Velocity. Every automobile manufacturer resisted the proposal. Current vehicles sold in the U.S. have a much lower deployment threshold than 15 mph Delta Velocity. In fact, airbags in some vehicles sold in the United States “can fire” at less than 8 mph Delta Velocity and “must fire” at Delta Velocities of only 12 mph. This is drastically too low and is inconsistent with the premise behind airbags – supplemental restraint system secondary to a seat belt. A seat belt by itself is designed to minimize injuries in 30 mph Delta Velocity accidents. Most new vehicles provide reasonable protection to even unrestrained occupants up to 25 mph Delta Velocity without an airbag. With airbags deploying at such low crash speeds, many people whom otherwise would not be injured had the airbag not deployed are being catastrophically injured because it did deploy.

There has been widespread publicity about never placing rear facing child seats in front of a passenger side airbag. However, millions of vehicles contain instructions that advise parents it is proper to place a forward facing child seat in front of an airbag if the seat belt is adjusted properly (by setting the ALR or by using the locking clip) and the seat moved completely rearward. Stronger legislation to curb the catastrophic effects of airbag induced injuries should be adopted. Consider the following:

A child sitting in a front facing child seat will almost inevitably be killed or seriously injured by an airbag because when the airbag deploys, the child is impacted by a device that is the power equivalent of dozens of exploding shotgun shells.

Airbag Deployment Sequence - Forward Facing Child Seat
Airbag Deployment Sequence – Forward Facing Child Seat

Manufacturers have known for 30 years that forward facing child seats and airbags are a deadly combination. During piglet testing and child-size dummy testing at Holliman Air Force Base and the Southwest Research Institute, airbags literally blew the piglets and child-size dummies out of the vehicle. The conclusion reached were startling:

1. out-of-position children are at risk for head and neck injuries;
2. airbag deployment speeds are too high;
3. airbag deployment angles expose children to head and neck injuries; and
4. airbags can kill children.

Airbag Deployment Sequences - Restrained Child
Airbag Deployment Sequences – Restrained Child

Knowing that children could be injured or killed by an airbag, GM invented a dual stage airbag system in the early 1970’s. The GM two-stage system used dual inflators. Only one inflator would fire in low speed crashes. Both inflators would fire in high speed crashes. Unfortunately GM’s design was not implemented until the late 1990’s. Consequently, more than 140 children have been killed by airbags. The NHTSA has even set up a Special Crash Investigation unit for airbag injuries/fatalities to children.

Therefore, children and airbags make a deadly combination because,

1. airbags are designed to protect a 5’ 10,” 165 lb. male
2. airbags that are mid-mounted deploy with full deployment force into a child
3. most passenger side airbags are not tethered (restricted
4. airbags deploy at crash speeds as low as 4 mph Delta Velocity
5. airbags are too aggressive
6. passenger side airbags are too big – they take up too much passenger volume

The Tracy Firm represents injured vehicle occupants in an accident all over the United States for more than two decades that we have been handling vehicle defects cases involving children in accidents. We specialize in handling only vehicle defect cases and, we have many attorneys all across the United States for referral of cases that involves our expertise.

Contact us online, or, call us today at 214-324-9000 if you or your loved ones are seriously injured in an accident, and, find out if you have a Vehicle Crash worthiness Case.

Tuesday 15th January, 2013 | The TRACY firm in Dallas, Texas | Source: Vehicle Product Liability Attorney E. Todd Tracy

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