Screen shot of deploying air bag courtesy of G&C Auto Service via YouTube.
To be effective, air bags must inflate instantly during a crash. Unfortunately, the required level of force can cause injuries — most typically, minor burns and abrasions. But drivers can take certain measures to mitigate the risk of injury.
Here are some tips from the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Division of Vehicles:
- In most vehicles, you should adjust your seat so at least 10 inches is between the center of your chest and the center of the steering wheel. Refer to your vehicle owner's manual for proper seat adjustment with air bags.
- To direct the air bag at your chest instead of your face, raise your seat or use a cushion and/or adjust the steering wheel downward.
- You should place your hands on the outside of the steering wheel, never across the steering wheel where the air bag deploys.
- Never secure a child in the right front passenger side, especially if your vehicle has an air bag. If the air bag deploys it could hurt the child. Children age 12 and under should sit in the rear seat of the vehicle to avoid injury from an air bag in the event of a crash. (Note: Different states have different laws pertaining to child seating requirements. They vary widely, so consult your own state's DMV website for guidance. View CDC recommendations here.)
- Most vehicles without rear seats or with small rear seats, such as pickup trucks or sports cars, have a passenger air bag on-off switch as standard equipment. The purpose of the switch in the off position is to disable the front passenger air bag to transport a child age 12 or under in the right front passenger seat.
- Read your vehicle owner’s manual for specific information about the air bags in your vehicle.
To watch a National Geographic video about air bags, click on the photo or link below the headline.