Airbag Safety Tips
Depending on your age, you might remember when cars only had lap belts. Your dad might remember taking a cross-country trip in the backseat of his parents' 1956 station wagon. Your mom might remember taking you home from the hospital on the bench seat of her 1970 van.
These days, most of us are comfortable with the routine of wearing a seatbelt because we understand how it keeps us safe. All cars made after 1998 are equipped with airbags, and they work together with seatbelts to keep us safer than we have been in years past. But the level of safety they can provide in the event of a crash is conditional upon you, the driver. Here are three simple rules for airbag safety.
Airbags and Seatbelts Are a Team
Wearing your seatbelt properly is important. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the combination of an airbag plus a lap and shoulder belt reduces the risk of death in frontal crashes by 61 percent, compared with a 50 percent reduction for belts alone and a 34 percent reduction for airbags alone.
Proper Position is Key
Fatalities and injuries involving airbags most often result from people on top of or very close to them when they're first deployed. This happens when folks aren't wearing seatbelts or wear their seatbelts improperly, like your friend who can't stand the chest strap or the driver that sits less than 10 inches away from the steering wheel. If you're in a wreck and are wearing your seatbelt incorrectly or you're too close to the steering wheel, you'd be endangering yourself when your airbags inflate. In fact, that's when fatalities can occur.
Instead, sit back in your seat with your seatbelt across your chest and lap, with your feet flat on the floor board. Keep your seat comfortably at an upright position and pull over if you need to take your seatbelt off to reach for something.
Keep Kids in the Back Seat
The safest place for kids in the car is in the back seat. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children can be killed if they are riding in the front seat when an airbag deploys. Make sure all infant and toddler car seats are secured with the adult lap belt or specially designed car seat belt, and that the baby is securely buckled into its car seat in the center back seat.
Kids usually yell "Shotgun!" to get to sit in the front seat, but keep the CDC's recommendation in mind. Children under the age of 13 should ride in the back and are not wriggling out of the seatbelt's restraints. It should be tight across their chests and laps. For more information on car seat safety, contact your local fire or police department.
Thanks to airbags and seatbelts, vehicle safety has come a long way—and vehicle manufacturers are continuing to improve airbags year after year. Eventually, airbags will cause less harm to drivers and passengers who have trouble following these seatbelt safety guidelines. In the meantime, buckle up to keep your family as safe as you can.