Airbags are credited with reducing numerous injuries and saving many lives during vehicle accidents. However, there have been incidents where they do not function as intended, and have even caused injuries such as explosive powder burns, detached eye retinas, child suffocation and impact deaths. In still other cases, airbags have not deployed when they should have, or even deployed unnecessarily, thus causing a car accident. In addition, many malfunctions do not occur in the airbag modules themselves, but rather in the electronic instruments and electromechanical devices that detect a collision and signal if, and when, an airbag should deploy.
We have experience in many aspects of airbag safety including:
The protection afforded by airbags
Whether or not an airbag should have deployed based on vehicle damage
Vehicle components associated with proper airbag operation
Occupant simulation for accidents, both with and without an airbag
Airbag did not deploy in a head on crash:
A car's driver was seriously injured when he struck another vehicle. The automobile manufacturer claimed that the vehicle's onboard computer indicated "no fault codes" associated with the airbag system and, therefore, the impact was not sufficient to require its deployment. However, the driver received a handsome settlement after we showed that, based on government airbag standards, the impact crush severity and direction were sufficient to expect airbag deployment.
Dr. Irving Ojalvo is Chairman of Technology Associates (www.technology-assoc.com), a forensic engineering firm with offices in New York City and Connecticut. The firm's technical personnel, all of whom have advanced degrees, perform accident reconstruction involving issues of biomechanics, mechanical, traffic, and human factors engineering.
An end user of a product expects that a given product will not only function as intended, but will be safe from non-obvious hazards. Based upon decades of experience with mishaps during use of common and specialized equipment, thousands of standards have been developed for many consumer products and industrial equipment. Numerous organizations exist, e.g., ANSI, ASTM, SAE, and ASME, that regularly review and update these standards.
Motor vehicle seatbelt use provides highly effective protection in frontal collisions for impact angles up to 30 degrees off-center (i.e. between 11 and 1 o’clock). All states have laws requiring their use for front seat passengers, as they have been shown to reduce moderate to severe injuries by 50%. They are less effective when your car is hit in the rear or side and sometimes their locking devices malfunction or the anchorage gives way.
A warning must inform individuals of a danger, which would not be obvious to them. It must tell them how to avoid the danger, and be easily understood. It should also provide them with the consequences of not heading the warning.