Failed Air Bags Risk Lives

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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore...

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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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We all take safety equipment in our vehicles for granted, counting on the fact that it will do its job and protect us from harm in case of a mishap or car accident. But what happens when that equipment fails, leaving us to suffer injury or harm in a way that could devastate our lives—or the lives of our loved ones?

Experts believe that may be exactly what happened in hundreds of cases involving air bags that failed to deploy.

A report, compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and entitled “Fatalities in Frontal Crashes without Air Bag Deployment,” reveals a grim statistic: Between 2001 and 2006, 576 car crashes may have occurred in which air bags failed to deploy.

In 360 of those cases, the NHTSA estimates that if the air bag had done its job, the life of the crash victim might have been saved.

“We all agree air bags save lives, but only air bags that function properly,” remarked Tennessee attorney Jason Denton, who reviewed the NHTSA report while preparing to sue a car manufacturer following a crash.

What causes air bags to fail? No one is sure, as there’s no one common denominator from one incident to the next. Reportedly, everything from sensors to wiring take the blame.

Perhaps scariest of all: Many experts believe that estimated number of motorists affected may be much too conservative. In fact, an investigation by one newspaper showed that more than 1,400 fatal crashes have occurred where air bags failed to deploy.

Facts like these are hard to hear. Let’s hope none of us ever has to deal with this issue personally.

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