How Serious Does a Car Accident Have to Be for Airbags to Deploy?
July 19, 2023 | Sagi Shaked | Car Accidents
It is difficult to find a car on the road these days that does not have airbags to protect motorists in the event of a crash. Airbags have been required in all new vehicles since the 1999 model year. Since then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that over 50,000 lives have been saved by these devices.
While you may be familiar with the existence of airbags, what makes them work properly and how serious a car accident needs to be for them to deploy is more of a mystery to many.
How Do Airbags Work in Vehicles?
An airbag inflates as the result of a chemical reaction that takes place within fractions of a second. Every airbag, whether it is a front airbag, side curtain airbag, or another kind of airbag, has sensors that detect various vehicle movements. These sensors come with preprogrammed limits that are set by the airbag manufacturers.
When an airbag sensor detects movement that exceeds these preprogrammed limits, an electrical impulse is sent to an ignitor. This ignitor, in turn, causes a chemical reaction to take place that creates a gas within the airbag. This harmless gas inflates the airbag nearly instantaneously — in about 1/20th of a second.
Airbag Sensor Limits Can Vary by Manufacturers
While airbag manufacturers set their sensor modules to detect similar limits, the precise limitations that will trigger airbag deployment can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
However, most front airbags will deploy if a sensor detects forces equivalent to a front-end crash with a stationary object at a speed of 16 miles per hour. The sensor may activate the airbag at a lower speed if it detects a front seat occupant who is not wearing a seat belt.
Side airbags deploy when sensors detect an impact on the side of the vehicle. The speed which triggers side airbag deployment can vary depending on whether the sensor detects a wide impact zone or a small impact zone.
A wider impact zone would suggest a T-bone collision with another vehicle, while an impact with a light pole would produce a smaller impact zone.
This variation in sensor limits means that a crash does not need to be catastrophic in order for an airbag to deploy. Additionally, an airbag’s deployment doesn’t necessarily signal that there are any serious injuries or that any injuries are the result of negligent actions.
Airbags Cannot Tell You How Serious a Car Crash Is
Because an airbag deploys in response to the normal, preprogrammed limitations, all the deployment can tell you is that these limitations were exceeded. Side airbag deployment can suggest a side impact, while front airbag deployment is a sure indication of a head-on crash.
But airbag deployment alone cannot tell law enforcement, a court, or you whether anyone was severely injured in the crash. To learn this, your attorney would need to consult law enforcement reports, ambulance records, and hospital medical records.
Similarly, the fact that an airbag deployed in a crash has no bearing on who is responsible for causing the collision. Your attorney would need to consider all available evidence, including witness statements, reconstructions of the accident, and other evidence, to know who caused the wreck.
Airbags Are Designed to Save Lives
Airbags are useful tools designed to save the lives of motorists in the event of a crash. But if you were injured in an accident caused by another’s negligence in Florida, you may be eligible to pursue compensation for the harm you’ve suffered, regardless of whether airbags deployed.
Speaking with a Miami car accident attorney after a crash can help you determine your legal options.