The connection between car airbags & short people and How it can endanger your safety

Updated Nov 14, 2017 | Same topic: Let's Drive Smart!

Are short adults more vulnerable to car crashes?

Airbag is a type of vehicle safety device designed to inflate immediately then promptly deflate during a car crash or a rapid sudden deceleration. The aim of the airbag is to prevent passengers in the car from being darted forwards into the steering wheel, windshield or others which will cause a serious damage to head and neck. But sometimes, this safety feature could not protect you or others as designed. Here’s why.

For the beginning, let’s talk a little about how a car is considered “old”. That is totally up to the car owners' opinions. For some people, a car which is used after one year could be considered “old” while with others, that term means a decade. To be clarified, in this article, “old car” will be used to refer to those cars which were assembled during the 1990s, especially before 1998.

This article is most helpful for 3 main target audiences:

  1. Those who own a car which was produced before 1998;
  2. Those whose height in between 130cm and 150cm and;
  3. Those who often drive children in cars.

airbags in a car

Sometimes, airbags could not protect you or others as designed

Many old cars made before 1998 were infamous for bringing forth damages to kids and for the short drivers - particularly women. During crashes, they were inflating with such force that killed or seriously injured some children, small-stature adults, and other people who were too close to the bag when it inflated. This happened due to the matter of size and mass of a person. In fact, small people will have to take more damage from the explosive inflated airbags and have less chance to spread the force out to reduce the affection for themselves.

>>> Related post: Airbags – Things you might not know

1. Standards for dummies may be not equal to Filipino drivers

It is said that to be safest, your height and weight should be 177cm and 80kg respectively. People who own these ideal figures will have a more powerful physical strength to stand the damage from the intensive inflation rather than those who do not. But wait a minute, where do those figures come from?

Actually, the figures are the standard body figure of a normal American man which comes from a study of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Mandatorily, all car safety gears or devices have to be designed to meet the standards which are legally approved, the standard of body size above is not an exception. Old cars that we mentioned before also use the same process.

Dummies for using airbags

The dummies used by car makers are totally different from Filipino

It is time to talk about the real problem here. Many of those old cars were exported to many countries, the Philippines is included. Many studies have shown that Filipinos are ones of the shortest compared to other countries in South East Asia. The number is 162cm, which is only higher the Indonesia and obviously much shorter than an American man. So, you can see the fact that many Filipinos are using the cars which were not designed based on their standards. This leads to dozens of deaths and injuries, mostly happened to short people - women and infants.

2.  Common airbag injuries and how a short adult can avoid them

Some studies have indicated that men usually sit approximately 25cm farther from the steering wheel than women. Because of that, the impact a woman has to take is commonly greater compared to a man, which causes more serious injuries. The possible damages could be one of the following:

  • Wrist and arm injuries;
  • Skin burning which is caused due to the friction between airbag’s fabric and victim’s skin under high speed;
  • Breath limitation, even suffocation;
  • Detached retinas;
  • Severe head injuries.

To help you not to suffer those painful injuries, we summed up experience from experts to the following instruction which is highly recommended for you to follow:

  • Keep an adequate distance from your chest to the steering wheel or the airbag’s container. The proper distance is between 20 – 25cm. You could equip your car with a pedal extender/adjuster. This gadget is used for giving you more flexibility in control the distance to the steering wheel while the pedal and other components are still under-monitored.

Children with airbags in a car

Maintain enough space to the airbag to reduce the impact

  • That will be a mistake if you neglect the seat belt. Because the protection from the airbag is in the best condition when it comes with the seat belt. You should not separate these two or you will limit the effectiveness of them.
  • Placing your hands properly on the steering wheel will help you protect your chest. The best position for that is called the “10 and 2”. The steering wheel is now the face of the clock, your right hand should be at the 2 o’clock position and the other is at the 10 o’clock.

Airbags and seat belts

3. How to be good parents for your kids

Safety for babies in a car is not as easy as you think. Airbags are not made for children. There is always a chance that airbag will hurt your kids even if your car is a new one. The consequences of an airbag accident to infants are usually serious, even death. The following list includes common injuries which could happen to your kids in event of airbag explosion:

  • Head, neck, shoulder trauma, severe injuries;
  • Broken bones;
  • Brain in-side bleeding;
  • Spinal injuries.

As a parent, you must know how to lessen the risk in these unexpected cases to protect your children. According to many experts and seasoned drivers, you must never place your child's seats at the front parallelly with driver’s seat. The best position to fit child seat is the rear-facing position. With this technique, your kids will never have to face the airbag or even impact from other crashes. Experts said that it will be 5 times safer for your kid in this position and you can also regularly check for the comfort of your child in the seats to avoid any other accidents.

A woman putting her child to the rear-facing position

The best position to fit child seat is the rear-facing position

At the end of the day, airbags are still one of most needed safety features in your car. But, they are not perfect, especially with old cars. So, it is your duty to be aware of their weakness and avoid it and make it safer for you and your family. We hope you find our driving safety tips and advice in this article helpful.

>>> Click here to get more useful tips and advice for car owners