My brother had a car accident and broke his nose from the air bag hitting him in the face. I'd like to have the air bags in my car disabled. How do I go about having this done?
Safety experts suggest that a broken nose is a small injury compared to the spinal fractures that can occur without the air bags. And since motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of spinal injury in the United States, disabling air bags is not advised.
It is true that air bags have been linked with serious injuries in infants, young children, and small adults. That's why babies and small children should not be allowed to sit in the front seat of any vehicle with an air bag installed.
In 1997 the federal government required new passenger vehicles to come equipped with passenger-side air bags. As a result of injuries and even some deaths, the government allowed vehicle owners to disconnect their air bags. A special waiver from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was needed in order to take this step.
However even with the waiver, finding an automotive repair shop willing to do the work may be difficult for liability reasons.
Studies show that spine fractures are more likely to occur when only wearing a seatbelt. In a recent crash study from Wisconsin, drivers and front seat passengers (ages 16 and older) who wore a seatbelt and had air bags that deployed had fewer spine fractures. The number of spine fractures was equal among patients who used only an air bag or who used no safety measures (no seat belt and no air bag).
Statistical analysis of the data showed that seat belt use alone increased the risk of spine fracture. The combined use of a seat belt and an air bag reduced the risk of cervical and thoracic spinal fractures. Relying on an air bag (without using a seat belt) increases the risk of a severe thoracic fracture.
All things considered, drivers and passengers are encouraged to keep air bags and wear their seat belts. The risk of a spine fracture (and especially a severe one at that) is less with both safety measures in place. The use of seat belt alone or air bag alone is not advised.