Airbags - Pop em\' or Keep em\'


During the rainstorm, it\'s hard to see anything-especially when the
downpour makes the windshield wipers work constantly. On this cold, dreary
September night young two year old Mica is safely buckled in her child safety
seat, which is attached to the passenger seat belt. Her older brother, Sean,
quietly sleeps in the backseat while his mother drives the exhausted children
home. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tall, 12 point buck is caught by the
vehicles\' headlights. Both the buck and the mother freeze. A milli-second
later, a powerful explosion occurs inside the cabin. The airbags deflate nearly
as quickly as they inflate, and Sean begins to scream. His mother is fine. The
seatbelt along with the airbag saved her from any serious harm. She is still
dazed as she looks over to her two year old, expecting more screaming. Nothing.
Nothing happens. She shakes her little girl and realizes that something is
drastically wrong. Mica is dead.
At last count, this scenario has happened 31 times. How many more times
does it have to happen before the automotive industry does something about it?
Children are not the only victims, though. Small women and the elderly have
also been killed as a result of airbags. The time has come to ask ourselves,
"Do airbags really work?"
First off, most people feel that airbags are a great safety device.
They let people walk away from an accident without a scratch, right? They
protect everybody, right? People don\'t need seatbelts if their car has an
airbag, right? Wrong. Airbags cause injuries, airbags kill, and airbags don\'t
work unless seatbelts are worn. In a rollover accident, people still have a
chance of being thrown from the car even if their car has airbags. Not only are
the airbags dangerous, they are also a key target for thieves. The easy to
remove airbags coupled with the high street value make them sought after by
thieves. The couple of hundred dollars received by the thieves is more than
enough incentive to target them, since they are worth more than most car stereos.

When looking at the airbag issue, we must first look at the issue of
safety. When the idea of installing airbags was first introduced, it seemed to
be a good, life-saving idea. However, according to CNN, airbags have snapped
the necks of 30 children. CNN also said that 15 smaller women would have
survived their accidents if airbags weren\'t installed in their vehicles
("Federal Safety Officials to Propose new Airbag Rules" 1).
True, airbags have had some success. According to CNN, airbags have
been credited with saving 1,100 lives since they have been introduced ("Federal
Safety Officials....." 1). However, an article by CNNfn goes on to state, the
airbags do nothing to cut the overall injury rate that occurs in accidents
("Reports Knock Airbag Safety" 1). The airbags may be saving some lives.
However, in other cases, they are doing more damage than good. USA Today broke
the story on airbag performance. The news report told us that airbags deliver
enough non-lethal injuries to the passengers that it offsets their performance
on overall injuries ("Reports Knock Airbag Safety" 1). The net result: airbags
have been found to cause injuries in so many accidents that the little good they
do is overshadowed by the injuries they cause.
Now that you understand some of the problems with the performance of
airbags, let\'s look at another problem-why they are unreliable.
The reliability of airbags is questioned since they do not protect all
sizes of bodies. When the first airbags were tested, the engineers didn\'t take
into account the different sizes of people the bags would have to protect. They
used a one-sized dummy, similar to "Larry and Vince." The engineers didn\'t
think about the possibility of babies in the front seat or smaller-framed people
being hurt by the bags. The airbag deploys at speeds of 200 miles an hour,
according to CNNfn. The bags explode when a sensor sets them off, whether the
car is involved in a fender bender or a head on collision ("Reports Knock
Airbag Safety" 1). If the cars\' sensors could sense the severity of the crash,
the airbag could deploy with more or less force, resulting in less overall
injuries.
These "smart sensors" are still on the drawing board. It will be years
before they are being put into full effect. Until that time, drivers will have
to continue to use good driving skills. According to Automotive News, the
advent of "smart sensors" will accompany "smarter airbags." These airbags will
not only be located in the steering