When driving through an intersection, you may see headlights mere seconds before another vehicle crashes into the side of your car. You've just been involved in a T-Bone accident. The vehicle striking yours may intrude into the passenger compartment, endangering your life and the lives of your passengers.
The thin side panel of your car is going to present little resistance to the intruding vehicle, and is not going to absorb much of the force. Your body - and the bodies of your passengers - are going to absorb the force of the crash.
An experienced T-Bone accident lawyer knows you may sustain serious or deadly injuries. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported 27 percent of all deadly 2009 crashes were side impact or T-Bone crashes.
If your car is equipped with side airbags, these side airbags could inflate in a fraction of a second when your vehicle is struck, potentially saving your life. If you have children in the car with you, however, these side airbags could be dangerous. It is important to understand if you have side airbags (SABs) in your vehicle and to make sure you follow best practices for safety if you do.
Safe Side Airbags Can Reduce T-Bone Death Risks
Side airbags come from the side seat or from the doors of the car to protect your torso and chest area. Side airbags can also come down from the roof to protect your head. The airbags can stay inflated for several seconds post-crash in case your car rolls. In most T-Bone accidents, the purpose is to prevent your head, shoulders, and chest from hitting or being hit by something hard as another vehicle intrudes on your car's occupant area.
Your car may not have side airbags. Not every car is equipped with side airbags, although National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says between 700 and 1,000 lives could be saved each year if all cars had them installed. Despite knowing side airbags could save lives, NHTSA has not taken steps to make them mandatory.
If you have not chosen to buy a car that includes this safety feature, you'll have virtually nothing to stop serious injuries from happening. In 60 percent of side impact accidents resulting in fatalities, traumatic brain injuries result because the head is unprotected, according to SaferCar.gov.
Since side airbags aren't required, NHTSA has done very little to make sure the ones included in cars are safe. Technical Working Group (TWG) has created voluntary guidelines for side airbags, but you will need to check your owner's manual or a list of vehicle features to find out if the side airbags in your car are in compliance with TWG recommendations.
NHTSA is also unclear about whether it is OK to have your kids near side airbags. Before 1999, parents were cautioned not to put a child in a car with side airbags. Now, NHTSA has changed its position but there have only been six accidents studied involving children when side airbags deployed, so there's clearly not enough data to make an accurate assessment of whether side airbags are safe.
Before you buy a car with side airbags and count on it to save your life in a side-impact accident, be sure to do your research and understand risks and benefits.