Fleet News

Road death highlights airbag dangers

FEARS that company car drivers could face serious injury or even death in the event of an airbag inflating have been raised at an inquest which has demanded a Government investigation into the safety of the devices. Coroner Christopher Sumner called for the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions to carry out the safety inquiry following an inquest into the death of Jennifer Reichardt, who died when her Rover 400 collided head-on with another vehicle at just 27mph.

The inquest heard that Reichardt should have walked away from the accident, but the impact of the airbag inflating and hitting the legal executive full in the face was the equivalent force of 'jumping off the top of a building'. Dr Kenneth Mason, an accident and emergency specialist at Whiston Hospital, where Reichardt was taken immediately after the accident, says he believes the airbag contributed directly to her death and this was supported by the coroner at the hearing at St Helens, Merseyside. This follows a warning in September last year when medical experts called for improvements in the design of airbags after they found the 'life-saving' devices could also kill, break bones and blind motorists.

At the time of this warning there was no recorded case of a death in the UK which could be attributed to an airbag. All of the cases studied by the experts were based in America. The study published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal warned that shorter drivers are most at risk because they sit too near to the steering wheel and get hit by the airbag as it is still inflating.

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