Airbags Supply Both Good and Bad News


Detroit Free Press - February 11, 2013

Air bags may save lives in car crashes, but increas­ingly, they’re becom­ing safety prob­lems them­selves. Still, automak­ers con­tinue to improve on their life-saving ability.

Find out what automak­ers are work­ing on now.

There’s no debate about air bags’ effec­tive­ness. A National High­way Traf­fic Safety Admin­is­tra­tion study found that air bags saved 2,788 lives in one sam­ple year. At issue is whether they’ll inflate when they’re sup­posed to, or whether they’ll cause injuries on their own.

At the same time, automak­ers are mak­ing com­plex air bag sys­tems. They’re:

• Adding more. Automak­ers con­tinue to pack them in. The 2013 Dodge Dart has 10. Toyota’s newest RAV4 crossover has eight.

• Find­ing new places. Gen­eral Motors has the first front-center air bags in the 2013 Buick Enclave, Chevro­let Tra­verse and GMC Aca­dia to keep the dri­ver and front-seat pas­sen­ger from col­lid­ing in a crash. Toy­ota has the first rear air bag to pro­tect back-seat pas­sen­gers in a rear-end crash in the tiny Scion iQ.

• Incor­po­rat­ing new tech­nol­ogy. Ford’s Lin­coln unit is putting inflat­ing seat belts in the rear of its 2013 MKZ sedan and MKT SUV. They put an air bag in a shoul­der belt to bet­ter dis­trib­ute forces.

While the advances are sure to save lives and lessen injuries, there’s more that can go wrong.