Why Airbags Fail to Deploy in Crashes

Vehicle manufacturers must strike a delicate balance between launching the airbag without enough cause, yet making sure it deploys fully in a serious accident. Airbags are expensive to repair after deployment and provides no real protection to the passengers at slow speeds, or when a seat belt is not used. There are many pieces of criteria that must be met before an airbag will deploy in an accident. Learn more about this subject and find out where you can register complaints about an airbag not deploying when you think it should have.

Moderate to Severe Crashes

A common reason why airbags fail to deploy in crashes is the impact is not severe enough. The SIR (supplemental inflatable restraint) system was only meant to be activated in moderate to severe crashes. Safe car.gov, which is a federally operated website sponsored by the US Department of Transportation defines a moderate to severe crash as one above 28 miles an hour when striking another vehicle.The speed comes down a few miles per hour when an automobile strikes a solid object, like a tree or barrier. Anyone experiencing an impact with another vehicle at near 30 miles per hour would probably consider the crash event substantial. These drivers might even suspect a defect in the system if they didn’t deploy. These crashes are on the border of the specifications supplied to the vehicle manufacturers on when to activate an inflatable restraint.

Airbag Fails to Deploy

Although the speed and severity of the accident coming in under the threshold of when to deploy, is probably the most common reason for the airbag not to deploy, there are a few others. Another possibility, especially with a used automobile is that the system has been repaired improperly or disabled. Verifying the proper operation of the diagnostic SIR light is a good way to check for this issue.The Government mandates the warning light be illuminated with the key on engine off to check the bulb operation. If the light does not come on in this situation, it may have been disabled or malfunctioning. When the engine is started, the airbag light should flash a few times, showing it has run a basic diagnostic and then goes out completely. If the light stays on or begins to flash for an extended period of time, this is an indication of a problem in the system and the airbag might not deploy in a collision.

Passenger Side Bag Fails to Deploy

Another common complaint is when the driver side goes off and the passenger side doesn’t in a head on collision over 28 mph. This can be an indication of a malfunction or it could be proper operation. The government mandated special laws to disable the passenger side airbag if a child or small person was sitting in the seat. Some vehicles also have a manual override to turn off the passenger side airbag completely. This override is common on trucks and cars with no rear seats. The deployment of the passenger side airbag has become much more complicated because of these rules and regulations. In this situation drivers should look into manufacturers specific problems like recalls and service bulletins by calling the customer assistance hotline number, provided in the owner’s manual.

Where to Report Airbag Problems

It’s important for drivers to report any malfunctions with a supplemental inflatable restraint to the vehicle manufacturer. This way car makers can track common issues and launch investigations as needed. In addition Safecar.gov offers motorists a chance to submit information specifically about airbags that fail to deploy. These safety complaints are important to report because it helps this agency track trending issues and investigate possible malfunctions. Drivers that think they’re airbag should have deployed in an accident, but didn’t can fill out this complaint form at safecar.gov.

Motorists can become upset when involved in an accident and then realize the airbags have failed to deploy. Careful investigation of the conditions during the accident is important to analyze. The angle of the impact and the speed at which it occurred can be the most important information when deciding if an inflatable restraint has malfunctioned. Drivers suspecting that something went wrong should report the issue to both the vehicle manufacturer, and the government agency responsible for monitoring problems with this important safety system.