Introduction: Airbags have been a major concern for automobile manufacturers and federal regulators. As of January 1, 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) attributed “296 deaths to front airbags, including 191 children, 92 drivers, and 13 adult passengers . . . .”1 Airbag systems are designed to reduce injuries in motor vehicle crashes and especially in crashes at high speeds.2 However, airbags have deployed incorrectly or malfunctioned due to a defect in their designs,3 and their incorrect deployment or malfunction has caused serious injuries and even death for vehicle occupants.4
Although the technology to employ airbags was available by the mid-1970s, automobile manufacturers were hesitant to use airbags until the federal government mandated that the manufacturers install front airbags.5 However, when the manufacturers did install the airbags, they used “cheap and unsafe designs” even though they knew that safer designs were available.6 Many children and small adults were injured or killed by the airbags that were installed before 1996.7 Therefore, in 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which was established to enforce automobile safety, issued a rule that required manufacturers to redesign airbags and upgrade testing requirements to reduce the risk of airbag-related injuries.8
Although the federal agency has issued regulations to improve airbags, “auto manufacturers continue to cut corners to save costs.”9 The manufacturers have even delayed recalling vehicles when they knew that the vehicles’ airbags had injured or killed the drivers or passengers.10 The NHTSA has tried to regulate the auto industry, but due to a lack of resources, the agency has sometimes been lax in following up on claims related to vehicle defects.11 Because airbags continue to injure the vehicle occupants, the federal government needs to pass stricter regulations and laws to protect the public from the risks that are posed by defective airbags.12
"Defective Designs in Airbag Technology,"
The Forum: A Tennessee Student Legal Journal:
1, Article 4.
Available at: http://trace.tennessee.edu/forum/vol2/iss1/4