In 25 years—from 1987 to 2012—frontal air bags saved 39,976 lives. That’s enough people to fill a major league ballpark.
NHTSA provides information about the safety benefits of frontal and side air bags and the importance of using seat belts—your first line of defense. We also test and provide guidance on the risks of counterfeit and defective air bags, and urge vehicle owners with recalled air bags to immediately get their air bags replaced by a dealer.
Air bags are supplemental restraints and are designed to work best in combination with seat belts. Both frontal and side-impact air bags are designed to deploy in moderate to severe crashes.
Air bags reduce the chance that an occupant's upper body or head will strike the vehicle's interior during a crash. To avoid an air-bag-related injury, always ensure proper seating position. Wearing your seat belt properly helps ensure that you’re properly seated.
Vehicles can be equipped with both front and side air bags (SABs). Frontal air bags have been standard equipment in all passenger cars since model year 1998 and all SUVs, pickups and vans since model year 1999. SABs are being offered as standard or optional equipment on many new passenger vehicles.
Air Bag Deployment
When there is a moderate to severe crash, a signal is sent from the air bag system's electronic control unit to the inflator within the air bag module. An igniter in the inflator starts a chemical reaction that produces a harmless gas, which inflates the air bag within the blink of an eye – or less than 1/20th of a second. Side-impact air bags inflate even more quickly since there is less space between the occupant and the striking object, such as the interior of the vehicle, another vehicle, a tree, or a pole.
Because air bags deploy very rapidly, serious or sometimes fatal injuries can occur if the occupant is too close to – or is in direct contact with – the air bag when it first begins to deploy. Sitting as far back from the steering wheel or dashboard as possible and using seat belts help prevent occupants from being "too close" to a deploying frontal air bag.
To ensure the continued protection of occupants, used air bags should be replaced without delay by an authorized repair center before the vehicle is driven again.
Takata air bags installed in tens of millions of U.S. vehicles are subject to recall due to a safety defect that may cause their inflators to explode and cause serious injuries or deaths. If your car or truck is included in this list of affected vehicles, contact your dealer for the appropriate repair. For full coverage of the Takata recall, support for consumers, and the latest news, visit NHTSA’s Recalls Spotlight.
Fake Air Bags
You count on your air bag to protect you and others in your vehicle in the event of a crash. If your vehicle is equipped with a counterfeit air bag, there is cause for concern.
Counterfeit air bags have been shown to consistently malfunction in ways that range from non-deployment to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.
NHTSA has identified certain vehicle makes and models for which these air bags may be available and believes this issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet.
Consumers whose vehicles have been in a crash and had their air bags replaced by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership within the past three years or who have purchased a replacement air bag online should contact the call center that has been established by their auto manufacturer to have their vehicle inspected at their own expense and their air bag replaced if necessary. The responsibility for replacing a counterfeit air bag will vary depending on the circumstances around the original installation of the part.
If you are concerned and have an air bag that was replaced at a repair shop recommended by your insurance company we recommend that you contact your insurance company. If you purchased a counterfeit air bag from eBay it may be covered by that company’s “Buyer Protection” program. Contact eBay’s Customer Support center accessible at www.eBay.com. You may also wish to contact your local Consumer Protection Agency or the appropriate State Office of the Attorney General to determine your rights under the law; and the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.