External airbags could reduce car crash injuries by 40%

Cars in West Virginia and the rest of the U.S. could someday feature external airbags if a European auto parts manufacturer has its way. If perfected, the technology would significantly reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities.

Germany's ZF Group recently announced that it is developing an external airbag that deploys from the side of a vehicle during a crash, creating an extra crumple zone to protect occupants. The company has tested the technology and found that it could decrease the risk of injuries by up to 40%.

Other companies have attempted to design similar technology with limited success. This is because it's difficult to design an airbag system that is sensitive enough to detect an impending crash but sophisticated enough not to deploy unnecessarily. However, recent advances in radar, lidar, camera technology and ultrasonics have ZF believing it can finally make external airbags a reality. Despite the breakthrough, consumers shouldn't count on seeing the technology on vehicles for several years. ZF's external airbag currently weighs around 13 pounds and measures nearly 80 inches long, 21 inches high and 15 inches long, which is simply too big for many vehicles. On the positive side, its inflation time is just 15 milliseconds, which is similar to the inflation time of interior airbags.

While airbags save thousands of lives, they can't prevent all injuries. West Virginia residents who have been hurt in vehicle accidents caused by negligent drivers might need legal assistance to recoup their losses. An attorney familiar with car crash claims could prepare a personal injury lawsuit on a victim's behalf. As a result, the victim could be awarded compensation for a variety of damages, including medical expenses, rehab costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and property loss.

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