Airbags were invented in the 1950s and eventually became a federally mandated safety feature in all vehicles. The first design was patented by John H. Hetrick in 1953. He created the “inflatable safety cushion” after he, his wife, and his daughter were in an accident. Walter Linderer also patented a design for an early airbag in 1953. Both men filed for patents in 1951, Hetrick in the U.S. and Linderer in Germany.
It took more than another decade before car manufacturers improved upon the initial prototypes, which needed to inflate incredibly quickly. The car makers also understood that secondary injuries from airbags were possible and worked to mitigate this harm.
By the 1970s, manufacturers began to add passenger airbags. By the 1990s, airbags were becoming standard in all vehicles, and side airbags began to be installed in some cars.
Front airbags stop a driver or passenger from colliding with the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield. Side airbags reduce the likelihood of injury from a driver or passenger colliding with a door or window. They mainly prevent head injuries.
People obviously hit the airbag, but this is much softer and less likely to cause severe injury than other parts of a vehicle. More recent inventions have even improved the airbag’s cushion, reducing potential harms.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, airbags significantly reduce deaths and injuries in car accidents. Thousands of people’s lives are saved every year because of this invention.
Despite how important airbags are to driver and passenger safety, they aren’t perfect. People can still get hurt from airbags when they’re in a car accident.
While airbags are rarely fatal to adults, they can be extremely dangerous for children. Airbags are designed to help fully grown adults and are too powerful for children or infants. Children should sit in the back of a vehicle with their seat belts fastened, or if they are still small, in a secured child safety seat. If children need to sit where there is a front airbag, they should sit as far back as possible to avoid colliding with the airbag. If there is a side airbag, children should not lean or sleep against the door.
If you were hurt in a car accident because of an airbag, contact our injury attorneys in Chicago right away. If your injuries were from a defective or malfunctioning airbag, you may have a case against the manufacturer.