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View Full Version : How much does it hurt when an airbag deploys?


pool
02-16-2006, 01:07 AM
I've never been in a wreck with a car that has airbags. Does it hurt as bad as I imagine it does? Is just covering your face with your arms (if you have a fast enough reaction time) going to protect you from most injuries? Of course I realize the severity of the wreck matters a lot.

thirdname
02-16-2006, 04:17 AM
I've never been in a wreck with a car that has airbags. Is just covering your face with your arms (if you have a fast enough reaction time) going to protect you from most injuries?

I'd imagine that's probably just about the worst thing you can do. Getting hit by a bag is better than getting hit by arms with heavy flesh and hard bones. If the airbag is designed to restrain a person in a crash, you can't stop it with your arms. These days they tell you to put your hands at 9 and 3 o'clock on the steering wheel so the airbag won't break your arms in a crash.

Little Nemo
02-16-2006, 04:27 AM
Is just covering your face with your arms (if you have a fast enough reaction time) going to protect you from most injuries?
Sure, go ahead and try that if it makes you feel better. If you're up for it, you can also try and quietly slip out the vehicle and walk around to the back of the car before the airbag deploys as well.

Seriously, any films you've seen of airbags deploying were filmed in slow motion. In reality they literally explode into your face. You won't have time for any reaction before it's over.

Who_me?
02-16-2006, 07:07 AM
Uh... the airbag hitting you doesn't hurt at all... it's an airbag. What did hurt though was the brush burn that the airbag did to my forearms.

Miss Mapp
02-16-2006, 07:18 AM
I was in a car accident a few years ago where the airbag deployed.

First, that thing is fast; one second, it's not there, and the next--PHFOWMPH!--it fills the whole area in front of you. I didn't even see it expand.

Second, it didn't hurt when it deployed, but it did bruise my wrists when it shoved my hands away from the steering wheel. Except for those bruises, I was unharmed by the crash, even though the front end of my car was smashed in, so having the airbag was a good thing.

MsRobyn
02-16-2006, 07:24 AM
I've been in a crash that caused the airbags to deploy. I don't have pictures (at least none I'd be willing to share), but they ain't pretty.

The point of an airbag is not to protect you from injuries. It's to force you back so you don't hit anything like the steering wheel (which can cause severe internal injuries) or the windshield (which can cause brain damage). The airbag will protect your face from broken glass if it needs to, but that's not its primary purpose.

The airbag on its own is sufficient to cause injury. My car's airbag abraded the skin off half my face and caused deep cuts to my right arm. It also forced the side of my head into the driver's-side window. But the alternative was worse -- I could've sustained massive internal injuries and/or possible brain damage and/or death.

Robin

Kalhoun
02-16-2006, 07:25 AM
Uh... the airbag hitting you doesn't hurt at all... it's an airbag. What did hurt though was the brush burn that the airbag did to my forearms.
It hits you hard enough to kill a person my size. I've never been in an airbag confrontation, but I know people who have been. One woman had black eyes!

Rick
02-16-2006, 07:49 AM
Can airbags hurt?
Sure, but not nearly as much as putting your head through the windshield does. :eek:
In no particular order possible results from a driver's airbag deployment include:
NOTE: these thing can happen, not that they necessarly will happen. Lots of people walk away from an airbag deployment with no ill effects.

Rug burns to the forearms. Like what happened to Who_me?.
Damage to wrists or hands from hands being blown off the wheel.
watchbands or bracelets being broken or scrapped up the arm from the airbag.
Broken eyeglasses, or cuts and bruises to the bridge of the nose from your face hitting the bag
Black eyes
For the well endowed ladies, bruised boobies
Not really an airbag injury, but if you are wearing a seatbelt, a diagonal bruise accross your chest.
Contact dermititus from the power the bag is packed with (often talc or cornstarch) being rubbed into the skin of the forearms
Some slight breathing difficulties from the above mentioned powder and the bag propellent
Ringing in the ears. These suckers are LOUD!


You don't want to know what happens if you are smoking a pipe..

Is just covering your face with your arms (if you have a fast enough reaction time) going to protect you from most injuries?

Sure, go ahead and try that if it makes you feel better. If you're up for it, you can also try and quietly slip out the vehicle and walk around to the back of the car before the airbag deploys as well.

Seriously, any films you've seen of airbags deploying were filmed in slow motion. In reality they literally explode into your face. You won't have time for any reaction before it's over.
Great answer. Bag deployments are so fast that one of the more common complaints after a deployment is "The bag did not deploy, it just fell out of the steering wheel." This is because the deployment is so fast, you don't realize it is happening until it is all over. Often times people still have a hard time believing it until they are shown the imprint of makeup or lipstick, or whatever left on the bag.
In my job I have gotten to deploy hundreds of airbags (parts being scrapped) I can honestly tell you that you cannot see the event. If you are quick, you might see the bag while it is inflated, but you will never see it inflate. The event is just too quick.

HMS Irruncible
02-16-2006, 07:50 AM
I've never been in a wreck with a car that has airbags. Does it hurt as bad as I imagine it does? Is just covering your face with your arms (if you have a fast enough reaction time) going to protect you from most injuries? Of course I realize the severity of the wreck matters a lot.
Well, if ruptured breasts hurt, then I'd say yes, airbags can hurt. Can't speak firsthand but it sure looked painful when it happened to my friend.

postcards
02-16-2006, 09:56 AM
One second I was holding the steering wheel, the next I was holding a steering wheel with a deflated airbag coming out of it.

I never felt a thing from the bag hitting me in the face, but my eyeglasses and hat were blown out the open sunroof.

I did sustain a serious injury, though. The retina in my left eye was torn and partially detached. Two surguries later and I still can't see straight with that eye.

As for the placement of your hands on the wheel, according to the guys at Skip Barber, if you're gonna drive with one hand on the top of the steering wheel, be sure to wear a big, heavy watch. So that way in an accident, it can knock some sense into you, and you'll learn to use 9 and 3.

Lumpy
02-16-2006, 10:10 AM
When my wife and I were in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic one time, I was the passenger when my wife didn't brake fast enough and we rear-ended someone at about 10-15 mph, just fast enough to deploy the airbags. # Some slight breathing difficulties from the above mentioned powder and the bag propellentSlight!? I had to jump out the car immediately like we'd been tear-gassed. The good news is that we discovered that my wife, who is petite and has to drive with the steering wheel practically against her chest, would not in fact be injured or killed by the airbag deploying.

Scarlett67
02-16-2006, 10:16 AM
One second I was holding the steering wheel, the next I was holding a steering wheel with a deflated airbag coming out of it.
Ditto. Fortunately I was able to brake a little before impact, and I hit the other car (which had pulled out in front of me) at the front fender, so it spun around and also lessened the impact, so I had only a small cut on my hand where it hit the stickshift (I guess) and just overall body soreness the next day.

I also spent some time looking for my missing sunroof. It had been open, so I thought it had perhaps sprung out of its frame and flown forward. Eventually I found it in little shattered pieces all over the floor of the car.

The engine and CD player were still running after the crash. I had to shut them off. After the insurance was all settled out (car got totaled because the airbag damage alone was more than half the value of the car), I bought another car just like it. Hey, it passed my crash test. :D

Martin Hyde
02-16-2006, 10:27 AM
As for the actual physical pain involved, have you ever been punched in the face? Well, it's about the same sort of pain, although it's more like being punched in the face by someone who is wearing heavy boxing training gloves.

The pain is very transitory though,and in the car accident I was in where the airbag deployed I just had a vague idea I had been hit by the airbag, I had much bigger concerns at the time. I had been hit by some guy who swerved into my lane on top of a mountain (literally this road was made on top of a ridge) and I had to keep steering and controlling my totalled car to avoid falling 200 ft. off the edge of a cliff.

Once I got out of the car I noticed there were some abrasions on my face from the airbag, and the powder that came out of the airbag left me feeling as though I was covered in dust and made breathing somewhat uncomfortable. I had to actually "remember" back to the event before I remembered the airbag hit, my adrenaline was just too high at the time to really notice it. I remember a flash, and then my glasses are gone and my steering wheel looks different.

pool
02-16-2006, 01:54 PM
Just to clear it up I didn't believe I had super speed capable of moving faster than the airbag deploys, but sometimes you can see the wreck coming, and may have a couple seconds to brace yourself for the impact in which you could move your arms before you actually wreck. At least now I know NEVER TO PUT MY HANDS OVER MY FACE!

Kimstu
02-16-2006, 02:05 PM
One of the reasons that airbags are such powerful beasties is that they were originally required to act as a "passive restraint" system---that is, they had to be capable of restraining an unbelted occupant, and that takes a lot more force than just protecting somebody who's already wearing a seatbelt harness. IIRC, there are now kinder, gentler airbags that won't be as effective in restraining an unbelted occupant, but which won't beat up so badly on a belted one. I am vaguely remembering this from old Car Talk columns, so corrections welcome.

aruvqan
02-16-2006, 02:21 PM
Damage to wrists or hands from hands being blown off the wheel.
Broken eyeglasses, or cuts and bruises to the bridge of the nose from your face hitting the bag
Not really an airbag injury, but if you are wearing a seatbelt, a diagonal bruise accross your chest.
Some slight breathing difficulties from the above mentioned powder and the bag propellent

.
mrAru had these from when he rolled my car, plus the bag drove his left arm against the pavement as the car rolled [the side window was broken] and he ended up with an evulsion of 7 inches long in a tapered wedge from about half an inch at the elbow to about 2 inches at the end towards his wrist. It was about a quarter inch deep.

Altogether not bad for rolling a car. Well, he also had some other scrapes bruises and assorted nicks and dings ... but he walked away in pretty good condition. The roof of the car was depressed 8 inches into the passenger compartment on the drivers side.

He said that he heard the bag go, but didnt see a thing until it was deflating. He thinks the seat belt bruise was more from being held in his seat upside down until they extracted him rather than from the bag.

rkts
02-16-2006, 03:41 PM
Yet another anecdote: I was in a comparatively minor accident (going 30 MPH before slamming on my brakes -- although it was sufficiently bad to total my car) and I didn't even notice the airbags for several moments after they deployed; I did feel a slight burning on my chest for a couple of hours afterward, but at the time, I didn't hear, see, or feel them; my mind was simply too busy sorting out everything that had just happened to take notice. It didn't hurt at all until later, and even that pain was minor.

Rick
02-16-2006, 04:44 PM
One of the reasons that airbags are such powerful beasties is that they were originally required to act as a "passive restraint" system---that is, they had to be capable of restraining an unbelted occupant, and that takes a lot more force than just protecting somebody who's already wearing a seatbelt harness. IIRC, there are now kinder, gentler airbags that won't be as effective in restraining an unbelted occupant, but which won't beat up so badly on a belted one. I am vaguely remembering this from old Car Talk columns, so corrections welcome.
Pretty close to right on.
When airbags regs were written here in the US no state had seat belt useage laws. The bag had to protect an unbelted dummy.
Now with manidatory seat belt laws and a few deaths from overly agressive airbag systems, the regs have changed. Now all cars (I think) are equipped with advanced airbags among other things they modify the inflation force based on crash severity, and sometimes seat blet useage and or peoples size. My company currently uses numerous inflation senarios depending on crash force, belt useage, and seat location. Also bag system are now able to to identify if a child is in the seat and to deactivate the passenger bag if this is the case. I think this was required as of the 06 model year, not 100% sure.

Br'er Lapin
02-16-2006, 08:54 PM
I was in a somewhat minor accident (rear ended someone at maybe 35mph) where the airbag deployed. My experience was similar to the others who have posted here. My forearm was bruised, very swollen and I had one long, fairly deep cut. I imagine it probably hurt like a bitch, but I was too shocked by the fact that I'd just been in a wreck to even notice.

Every now and then I catch a whiff of something that smells like the powder in an airbag, and it always stops me dead in my tracks, heart racing for a moment.

alterego
02-16-2006, 09:44 PM
It didn't hurt, however, it melted my shirt in two places.

ombre3
02-17-2006, 12:52 AM
I work at various auto auctions nowaday in my semi-retirement.

See lots of TLC's (total loss collision) --------car mostly destroyed------front end back a couple feet crumpled into nothingness, and air bags deployed.

Looking at the damage to the front, I always look and expect to see blood everywhere inside the car. Never saw any blood at all in these cases that usually end up at auto auctions.

Air bags may be somewhat painful, but they sure seem to prevent serious injury or death-------at least from what I have seen.

pool
04-03-2007, 03:43 AM
I know raising zombie threads from the grave is generally looked down on around here but I wanted to let everyone know that I got into a wreck over this past Thanksgiving and the airbag deployed so that query was definitively answered! The wreck was between 50-60 miles per hour and actually the airbag did not hurt at all as it happened too fast for me to really register what happened. ;)

Rick
04-03-2007, 12:32 PM
I'm glad you are OK. What happened?

pool
04-03-2007, 01:59 PM
Man it is really embarassing but I fell asleep at the wheel (with the cruise control on) and the car turned and I ran right into the guardrail. I kept falling asleep and then snapping out of it, when I should have pulled over after the first time.

jasonh300
04-03-2007, 08:47 PM
Every now and then I catch a whiff of something that smells like the powder in an airbag, and it always stops me dead in my tracks, heart racing for a moment.

I had to get rid of my '98 Mustang after I wrecked it because of the airbag smell. After the insurance company and dealership were done with the car, it was like new, but there was still that airbag smell inside the car. I'd get pretty freaked out sometimes, especially if I kicked on the A/C after it hadn't been on in a few days. That's when the smell would be really strong. I traded it in a few months after I got it back.

If not for that, I'd probably still have that car. Out of the half-dozen Mustangs I've owned, it was by far the best.

What I got in the wreck, I was going about 45 MPH and a car pulled out of a blind corner in front of me about 100 ft ahead. That gave me about 1 second to stand on the brake if my reaction time was 1/2 second. Being tall and skinny, I drive with the seat all the way back and standing on the brake, I was pressed into the seatback pretty hard. Upon impact, I saw the airbags open. It was almost like a frame-by-frame slow motion thing...one frame, everything was normal, the next frame, the air bags were open, and the next frame, everything came to a rest (except for the car I hit which was still spinning) and the air bags were already partially deflated and my hood was slightly folded up in front of the windshield.

I guess about 3 seconds passed before I felt like I had to vacate the car because of all of the dust/smoke from the airbags. I actually bent the sheet-metal on the driver's side door trying to make my escape since the fender had pushed back about an inch and was jamming the hinge-end of the door.

mleikemp5
05-28-2013, 11:57 PM
I rear-ended another car on Saturday morning going about 40 to 45 mph. I was wearing my seat-belt. My airbag deployed instantly. My injury was to my chest only. I was taken by ambulance to an ER where it was determined that my heart and lungs were okay, but that I had a severe bruise on my chest. I am a 68-year-old female. This bruise is very painful, requiring a narcotic pain medication. It is now Tuesday, 3 days later, and I'm still very, very uncomfortable.

As others have written, you will have no time to try to protect yourself from the airbag. Its action is instantaneous!

Previously about 30 years ago I was in a more serious car accident wearing a seat-belt only. The car had no airbag. I was seriously injured with many broken ribs which caused both lungs to collapse.

My present chest discomfort is preferable to that previous scenario.:)

Senegoid
05-29-2013, 04:15 AM
Broken eyeglasses, or cuts and bruises to the bridge of the nose from your face hitting the bag
Black eyes
And how about shredded eyeballs full of broken eyeglasses shards? Does that ever happen?

Rick
05-29-2013, 06:12 AM
I've never heard of it.

bob++
05-29-2013, 07:24 AM
And how about shredded eyeballs full of broken eyeglasses shards? Does that ever happen?

Oops - misread post.

JRDelirious
05-29-2013, 07:39 AM
And how about shredded eyeballs full of broken eyeglasses shards? Does that ever happen?

Modern eyeglass materials should not fragment into shards from this sort of impact.

Rick
05-29-2013, 09:24 AM
And how about shredded eyeballs full of broken eyeglasses shards? Does that ever happen?
If this had ever happened every TV station in the country would follow the old journalistic maxim "If it bleeds, it leads,"
This story would be on every station and network along with "Special Investigative reports" and "I Team investigations". You would hear about it at 4, 6, and 11.
Since you haven't, I feel fairly confidant it has never happened.

nion
05-30-2013, 12:48 AM
I've been happy AND scared to have my first airbag equipped vehicle. Scared because it's one of the earliest airbag systems in the USA, I believe. It's a 1991 Buick Park Avenue. It's not even referred to as SRS. Instead it is a SIR, or Supplemental Inflatable Restraint. I've read about how hard-hitting the old systems can be. That scares me. I will hopefully be replacing the car next year (fingers crossed!) so hopefully I will never have to find out.

Snnipe 70E
05-30-2013, 01:31 AM
I did not know thatthe air bags deployed never saw them. After the accident as I was gathering my thoughts I noticed them hanging down and I had a rug burn onmy leftarm.

Tom Tildrum
05-30-2013, 09:36 AM
When I rolled over, the side curtain airbag knocked my glasses into the back seat. I had a moment of disorientation once the car came to rest: "Oh my God, I'm blind!"

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