Air Alert: Carl Monday Investigates Defective Airbags

Air Alert: Carl Monday Investigates Defective Airbags

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -  They're designed to protect you, but could a popular car airbag be putting you and your family at risk?

In his exclusive investigation, Carl Monday examined air bag deployment - or lack thereof - in certain model GMC Envoy vehicles.

Here is the response from a GM spokesman on Air Bag Non-Deployments:

All Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac cars, trucks and crossovers meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Air bags are designed as part of an overall vehicle interior safety system that begin with wearing safety belts. Air bags are designed to deploy in crashes where they are needed. At times, even crashes at higher rates of speed do not trigger a deployment. In the cases you cited where an air bag recall was conducted, the issue was either possible fracture of an inflator during deployment or mislabeling.

Air bags deploy whether or not a passenger safety belt is buckled, which is one reason why safety belt use is urged every time on every trip.

-GM Spokesman

Carl Monday also asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to respond.

  • Q: We're seeking comment to determine why a recall or investigation wasn't initiated for model year 2004.

BACKGROUND: The recalls for other model year Trailblazers and Envoys are for specific production and manufacturing issues that are not related to the 2004 vehicles.  As a supplemental safety device, air bags are a proven device for saving lives and reducing serious crash injuries.  Non-deployments can occur when the vehicle's crash sensing system determines that air bag deployment is not warranted.  Therefore, in many crash scenarios, air bags perform exactly as designed by not deploying.

  • Q: Should there be a reasonable expectation that an airbag would deploy when a vehicle strikes a tree head on at over 40 mph?

BACKGROUND: Air bag safety systems encompass many varying restraint systems.  Air bags take into account a variety of factors, including seat belt use, seat track location, crash configuration (i.e., head-on, offset frontal, angled frontal) and crash severity before determining whether to deploy.  As a result, they must predict total crash severity very early on in the crash sequence.

  • Q: Additionally, we're aware that airbags are a supplemental system designed to work in conjunction with the seatbelt for maximum protection, but put simply, will driver's side frontal airbags continue to deploy if the seatbelt is not being worn?

BACKGROUND: Yes, frontal air bags, both driver-side and passenger-side, are programmed to deploy in certain crash scenarios regardless of whether or not the front seat occupants are wearing seat belts.   But, remember, air bags are a supplemental safety system, and for maximum safety and security, drivers and passengers should always wear seat belts.  The newer seat belts have many advanced safety features, including pre-crash tensioners that automatically tighten around the torso prior to a crash.  This holds the occupant in the proper position for maximum protection as the air bag deploys.  Deployment thresholds vary by vehicle depending on whether a driver or passenger is belted.

  • Q: We'd also be interested in any fact sheets you may be able to provide related to the above issue.

Air Bag System Facts:

--In 2008, our latest reporting year, frontal air bags saved an estimated 2, 546 lives.

--From 1987 to 2008, a total of 27,840 lives were saved by frontal air bags.

--In 2007, air bags activated as designed in well over one million crashes nationwide.

--In 2007, NHTSA tested over 250 air bag systems to make sure they met federal standards.

Here's our latest occupant protection fact sheet, with the latest (2008) air bag protection information -

For more information on air bags and how they work go and click on air bags.

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