The Facts About Air Bags

Myth: I almost always wear my seat belt, so an air bag is unnecessary expense. Beside, they only protect you against frontal collisions.

Fact: Frontal and front-angle crashes account for more than half of all accident deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "To argue that airbags are a poor idea because they do not provide protection from all types of crash injuries is like arguing that polio vaccine should not be used because it does not cure cancer." Also, in serious frontal collisions, if you neglect, or forget to wear your seat belt, the air bag will still provide significant protection.

Myth: Air bags themselves are a real health hazard and cause serious injuries.

Fact: They do inflate immediately upon impact and at a great speed. According to a recent study, about one in three air-bag inflations left a driver or passenger with burns, bruises, and neck sprains. But with few exceptions, the injuries were minor. The odds of sustaining an injury do, however, go up if you sit too close to the steering wheel (3 inches or less). Nonetheless, numerous federal and auto industry studies attest to the fact that air bags save lives and prevent serious injuries.

Myth: Air bags will not work unless they are properly maintained and that's expensive.

Fact: Air bags last through the life of the car and require no maintenance. A few car manufacturers, however, suggest that you have them inspected at intervals ranging from three to 10 years.

Myth: Air bags do not work all the time, and they also go off accidentally, causing the driver to lose control of the car.

Fact: According to some studies, air bags work 99 percent of the time. Some consumers, however, have complained to federal agencies that air bags failed to deploy when they were in an accident. What is important to remember is that air bags are designed to inflate when a car hits and object head-on and at speeds of 12mph or more; customers who complained usually were not aware of those facts. Air bags rarely inflate accidentally. They will not be activated when you hit a bump or a porthole or when you stop suddenly. And air bags are designed so that you will not lose control of your car.