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Dangers of Airbags

Essay by   •  May 30, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,505 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,819 Views

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Automobile Safety has come a long way since the invention of the car. From bumpers and sensors to brakes and airbags, while these systems have saved many people's lives, it seems as though airbags do more harm than good. The airbag was a good idea that turned into a corporate monster. This system has been deemed a safety feature. The airbag both mentally and physically impair the driver. While the actual airbag can incapacitate an occupant, the mental safety of a bag of air for protection is the worst false security. As once said by an economist, "The best way to keep the roads safe is if you put a spike sticking out of the steering wheel, see who isn't careful then." - Anonymous Economist

While commuting home from work in the summer, you decide to drive more carefully in this summer shower. On a local road, you hit a large puddle of water and careen around a corner colliding head on into a telephone pole. Although only a mild crash at 35 miles per hour, your airbags deploy. You end up walking out of the hospital with a broken nose, mild burns, a major headache, and a skyrocketing insurance rate. Now taking a look back at the accident lets go over it more thoroughly. At the moment of impact, accelerometers and pressure sensors detect a crash and initiate the airbag's deployment. Within 30-55 milliseconds, the airbag has been deployed, compared to the blink of an eye which takes 100 milliseconds. The airbags are made of high density materials like Teflon and Kevlar which can also be found in bullet resistant clothing. High density also means heavy weight, the average airbag weighs in at 2.5 kilograms. This 2.5 kilograms/5.5 pound bag is propelled by a high compact explosive towards the driver at 250 mph + which can lead to broken noses, arms, legs, burns, and skin abrasion. (Chaikin) The explosion also generates a pressure wave of 10 psi, this is equivalent to how much the human eardrum can withstand, thus it can rupture the eardrum rendering one deaf (Lehman), the explosion also generates 165-175 db, which is equivalent to a XM84 non-lethal stun grenade used by swat teams to cause temporary loss of sight and hearing.("Airbags") As the bag expands, A cloud of talcum powder shoots out of the airbag during deployment which could cause people with asthma or occupants in shock from a traumatized Medusa, can cause breathing failure, and even result with cardiac arrest.("The Chemistry...") Ironically, what makes an airbag so lethal is the idea of an airbag allows you not to need to wear a seat belt, and to accommodate them, airbags have been made to deploy even faster because there is no seat-belt holding them in, hence why they are so dangerous. This might seem like gibberish, but let the statistics speak for themselves. Since 1990, in Ohio alone state, there have been 168 deaths reportedly have been caused by airbags inflating in low severity crashes. These deaths include 63 drivers, 6 adult passengers, 81 children between the ages of 1 and 11, and 18 infants (15 restrained in rear-facing infant seats and 3 on adult passengers' laps). Yet with all the accidents, the number one death toll is from un-belted occupants. Because of the mental safety net of an airbag, many drivers neglect to use the seat-belt which even the basic 3 point harness can reduce 15% of the impact, unlike airbags which try to stop you from crashing into the steering wheel or dashboard by shooting something out at you. Although 90 percent of drivers say seat-bets are good, less than 40 percent of drivers actually wear them. ("Airbag Update")

Not only do airbags fail in keeping occupants safe, they are the current day example of automobile industry corruption. A good example of automobile industry corruption would be the Ford Pinto case. During the engineering of the car, corporate stated that the Pinto was not to weigh an ounce over 2,000 pounds and not cost a cent over $2,000. Thus most safety features and any excess weight was shaved off. The Pinto ad a malfunction in which when it was hit from the rear the trunk would be crushed into the driver's seat, and the gas tank would rupture, spilling on the hot muffler causing an explosion and the car to burn up. (Pasquarello) This ended up devastating hundreds of lives. 180 people were engulfed in the flame and burned to death, another 180 people survived with serious burns, and a total of 2,100 cars were burned. Ford calculated that each death was worth $200,000 , $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle for insurance, the total came to $49.5 million. While fixing this problem would only have cost 11 dollars for a rubber valve in each vehicle. to fix the 11 million cars and 1.5 million trucks, the total would come to $137 million. That means that Ford saved a total of $87 million by paying medical bills instead of saving lives. If they wouldn't spend 11 dollars on each car to fix this problem, what would make them spend an extra 200 dollars on each car to save more lives and reduce the injury rate of both major and minor accidents. They would rather pay hospital and insurance bills every year than to improve their safety features.The production cost of an airbag system is about 35-45 USD, while the whole system is sold for $600 + which includes the steering wheel sensors

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