A conservative estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that airbags failed in 576 fatal accidents over a six-year period. That might seem like a small number, but the actual number of airbag failures may actually be more, because the NHTSA study only took a small representative sample of data. For instance, it did not look at accidents where the motorists survived the accident in spite of the airbag deployment failure.
The NHTSA researchers also took only a small sampling of accidents for the study. They found a total of 1,446 fatal accidents between 2001 and 2006, but had reason to believe that the data was inconsistent. Because the data could not be confirmed in all of these cases, they initiated a study of only a percentage of these cases, and came up with the 576 estimate.
Airbags save lives. However, you don't have to be a Los Angeles car accident lawyer to know that when an airbag fails to deploy, it seriously increases the risk of an injury. Motorists and front-seat passengers, who are at a high risk of serious injury during a frontal impact crash, can be hurt because of airbag failures.
Unfortunately, determining whether airbag failures played a role in a traffic accident fatality can be complicated. Airbag failure investigations can be extremely complex. There isn't one single thing that can go wrong, causing the airbag to fail to deploy. Airbag systems consist of complex and sophisticated circuitry, including plenty of wires and sensors, and a malfunction in any of these can cause airbag failure. However, the possibility that more airbags are failing every year is extremely disconcerting.