Airbags are supposed to protect us from accidents, right?
Tell that to one Dr. Ken Thompson.
In a somewhat reversal of fortune, the good doctor ended up injuring his thumb when the airbags of his 2006 BMW 325xi deployed after a minor fender bender with another car.
While the airbags did their job in shielding his body from the minor scrape, his right thumb wasn’t so fortunate.
“I had what they call a partial amputation," Thompson said. “My right thumb is just basically hanging and that was the only injury I sustained.”
It may seem like a case of Dr. Thompson’s thumb being at the wrong place at the wrong time but the truth is, the matter is far more serious than most people think. The problem with most cars these days, including BMW, is that the horn buttons are situated in the center of the steering wheel – the very same spot of the air bag cover. When you’re seconds away from a car accident, the natural instinct is to honk your horns to alert the other car to at least move out of the way of you careening vehicle. Now in the event the other driver doesn’t hear or see you and an accident ensues, the air bags deploy dangerously close to where your hands were when you were honking your horn. In that case, injuries to your hands and arms could happen – as was the case with Dr. Ken Thompson’s poor right thumb.
It strikes us as ironic how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is careful to remind us not to be too close to the air bags when they deploy, yet stress to the car manufacturers that the air bags be placed right under the horn.
Even more perplexing is the NHTA’s warning about the potential effects of air bag deployment. The warning pretty much says, “Air bags deploy very rapidly and very close or direct contact with a deploying air bag can cause serious or even fatal injury.”
If that was the case, then why put the air bags at the exact same place drivers are mostly likely to put their hands on before the moment of impact?
In the case of Dr. Ken Thompson and thousands of others who’ve experienced an assorted number of injuries from air bags, it’s an extremely valid question that’s in need of some serious explaining.