It seems like a cruel trade-off. A new study shows that motorists involved in auto accidents who are wearing seatbelts may actually be at a higher risk of fatal injury in an accident when their vehicle is equipped with airbags, compared to unbelted motorists, who suffered fewer injuries.
The study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety focused on more than 3,600 motorists between 2004 and 2007 who were involved in auto accidents. The researchers were stunned to find that motorists who used their seatbelts were up to 21% more likely to suffer fatal injuries in an auto accident, compared to motorists who were not wearing their seatbelts. The airbag designs in all these cases have been around since 2004, and, since 2008, have been part of the federal mandate for airbags. That means there are millions of cars out there equipped with these airbags, which seem to protect unbelted motorists against injury after an auto accident better than they do motorists who are safely buckled in.
There are no solid explanations for the results, but there are some theories out there.
· Sophisticated new air bag designs may not be responding as anticipated when auto accidents occur in the real world.
· Modern vehicle design may be contributing to high-impact crashes that increase the amount of force occupants of a car are expected to absorb in an auto accident.
· There may have been changes in when and how the airbags deploy in an auto accident as a result of changes in crash test requirements.
Obviously, as Atlanta injury lawyers, we would push for more studies in this area. If airbags are not doing a good job of protecting all motorists, belted and non-belted alike when an auto accident occurs, then federal agencies need to consider rethinking these standards.