Deployment of an airbag after an automobile accident causes more minor eye injuries, but reduces major eye problems. It's now well validated that airbags will reduce the number of severe and fatal injuries. However, the effect of airbags on the eye has not been well explored until now.
Researchers in Virginia, USA, analysed data from over 20,020 automobile accidents from 1994 to 1998. They looked at the severity of the various eye injuries that occurred. Level 1 included problems like skin abrasions around the eye and eyelid, while Level 4 described serious injuries such as optical nerve damage and retinal detachment.
The researchers found that 3.5 per cent of those involved in an accident where an airbag was deployed had an eye injury, compared to two per cent where an airbag was not involved. In fact, 25 per cent of all eye injuries occurred among those involved in airbag deployment and the majority of these were linked directly to the airbag.
More corneal abrasions were noted among those exposed to an airbag. But the researchers found that the severity of eye injury was actually reduced by deployment of an airbag. Other eye injuries were caused by the windshield, instrument panel and steering wheel.