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  1. #1

    riding with side airbags correctly

    Many cars now have side airbags and they can be excellent safety features,
    but what alterations in riding habits do they require in order to minimize
    the risk of injury from the side airbags themselves? Do owner's manuals
    spell these out well, and do people follow them?

    In vehicles equipped with side torso and side head airbags for front
    passengers, do the front passengers need to give up riding around with one
    arm hanging out an open window? Do they need to minimize how often/long
    they stick their heads out of the windows while the vehicle is in traffic?
    And most importantly, do they need to make sure to never fall asleep with
    their head resting against the side of the vehicle?

    Children (non-infants old enough to be out of carseats but still young enough to not be fully grown) should always ride in the rear seats to minimize danger from
    front airbags, but what about side airbags here? Many vehicles have airbags
    in the rear seats too. In particular, many vehicles, like the VW Passat
    that is on top of everyone's best, safest family car list, have side head
    curtain-style airbags that extend from the front to the back to protect
    both front and rear passengers. Do children in the rear seats need to stay
    away from the sides of the vehicle in general? While it may seem reasonable
    to get adults in the front seats to not fall asleep against the side of the
    vehicle, it would seem impossible to always prevent children from falling
    asleep in the vehicle or assuming they do sleep to prevent them from
    falling against the side of the vehicle and remaining there for extended
    periods. This is not to mention preventing kids from eagerly staring out
    the side windows with their faces pressed close to the glass, or out open
    windows even.

    Now obviously, kids with their heads next to the side windows are going
    to be in trouble already in any severe side impact to the very spot
    where they are sitting, but the side curtain airbags could easily deploy
    due to a side impact that would not have come anywhere near the rear
    seats of the vehicle. I don't know how they are set, or what real-world
    deployments characteristcs are like, but I imagine the side airbags
    could easily go off in an off-set corner crash that doesn't even involve
    an external object pushing directly on the side of the vehicle (but that
    might easily throw the occupant heads against the inside of the side of
    the vehicle). What would happen to a child sleeping against the rear
    side window if the side curtain airbag deployed?

    How can anyone driving kids around in the backseat insure that the kids
    don't end up in that configuration? Monitoring them from the driver's
    seat would seem to create a distraction that is far more of a safety
    hazard than than not having side curtain airbags that extend all the
    way back to the rear seats in the first place.


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