From 1990 to 2000, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified 175 deaths caused by air bags. Most of those deaths (104) were children. Although that number is high, during that same time period, there were 3.3 million airbag deployments, which are estimated to have saved 6,377 lives and to have prevented countless injuries.
Because of the disproportionate amount of child deaths caused by airbag deployment, it is now recommended that children 12 years old and younger always ride in the rear seat using appropriate safety belts.
There are risks of injury occurring as a result of airbag deployment. The most common injuries are minor cuts, bruises and abrasions. While this is not ideal, keep in mind that these same airbags have prevented thousands of deaths, skull fractures and serious brain injuries.
Distance From The Airbag:
One of the best ways to prevent possible injuries from airbag deployment is by creating distance between you and the airbag, and by using proper hand position on the steering wheel when driving.
The most common factor in airbag injury and death is that the occupant was too close to the airbag when it deployed. This is a combination of not being restrained and moving closer to the airbag because of that, or simply because the seated position was too close in the first place.
It is recommended that there be at least 10-inches between the center of the airbag cover and your breastbone when the vehicle is in motion. The more you manage to maintain this 10-inch distance (or more), the safer you will be when the airbag deploys.
Steering Wheel Hand Position:
As we discussed previously, for years, driver education taught that the best place to keep your hands on the steering wheel while driving was at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock (that is, if you think of the steering wheel as an analog clock, then the positions are at 10 and 2).
However, after airbags were introduced as standard equipment on our vehicles, it was found that there as an increase in wrist fractures due to airbag deployment. Because of that, it is now generally recommended that drivers use a 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock hand position— which gives the hands and arms a safer position in the event of airbag deployment.