Pros and Cons of Having Airbags

by Melissa Monks
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Airbags save lives. This is a short and simple statement, and it's true, government tests have shown the safety benefits of airbags. But there are cons to having airbags in your car. They can be dangerous to children and small adults and can cause serious injury if anyone in the car isn't wearing his seat belt or isn't wearing it properly.


Between 1987 and 2008, an estimated 25,782 lives were saved by airbags. Airbags offer a cushion between the occupant and the car's interior, lessening the damaging effects of impacts.

Distribution of Crash Forces

Airbags distribute crash forces more evenly across an occupant's body. When the force of an impact is localized, the risk of life-threatening injury is much greater. An airbag, however, takes that localized force and lessens it by spreading it out.

On/Off Switches

Due to the hazards posed by airbags to children, vehicles with no or small rear seats are equipped with on/off switches so that the airbags can be turned off to protect passengers younger than 13.

Force of Impact

Airbags deploy at around 100 miles per hour; this incredible force can cause injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most injuries caused by airbags are minor abrasions and burns.

Because airbags deploy with such force, they can be particularly dangerous to children. Children younger than 13 should always ride in the rear seat to avoid injury. Infants under 20 lbs. and 1 year of age can be seriously injured unless they're seated in the back seat in rear-facing infant restraints.

Proper Restraint

There are instances where serious injury or death can result from airbag deployment. If an occupant is unrestrained or improperly restrained, is unconscious, or sitting too close to the airbag, she might be seriously injured when the airbag deploys. The NHTSA recommends adults sit at least 10 inches from the steering wheel or dash.

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