Regarding your vehicle airbags – Are they likely to save you or create more injuries?
Special Risk Drivers Drivers who sit very close to the steering wheel–usually the elderly or small in stature–pose a special problem. In a few cases, the bag has deployed and struck the occupant at full deployment speed. This can cause a very severe hyperextension injury (a type of whiplash), and several deaths have resulted from deployments during fairly low-speed collisions. The usual lesion is a fracture through the occipital condyles (the base of the skull right above the top of your neck).
Future designs will tune the airbag deployment timing based on the placement of the occupant. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has enacted special rules allowing for dealer-installed on/off switches for such cases, for medical reasons (vaguely defined), and for passenger-side bags in cases where no back seat exists and parents need to transport children in child safety seats/carriers. Otherwise, parents traveling with children in child seats should not place them in the front seat of a passenger-side airbag-equipped car because the bag can cause serious injury to the child by crushing the seat.
Newer designs will allow either manual or passive disarming of passenger-side airbags through the use of infrared or other sensors.