Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Using sensors that custom-tailor airbags to individual motorists can help prevent injuries, University of Tennessee research shows.

Tyler Kress, a UT-Knoxville industrial engineering researcher, said airbags inflate at 200 miles an hour and can cause serious injuries.

Kress’ research has shown that factors like seat position, occupant size and weight, whether occupants are using seatbelts and severity of impact affect the severity of injuries.

Kress says manufacturers should develop systems to control how fast airbags inflate.

“An airbag for someone 5-feet tall and 95 pounds should deploy differently than it should for someone who is 6-feet and 195 pounds,” Kress said. “A lot depends on their seat position, whether they are belted or not and how bad the wreck is.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports airbags have saved 900 lives, but 15 children were killed by air bags in U.S. crashes. The NHTSA says 11 of the deaths occurred because seatbelts were not used.

Automakers recently proposed a plan to spend $21 million to lobby states for tougher seat belt laws and to teach the public about the risks of using airbags without seat belts.

Contact: Tyler Kress (423-974-3333)