What follows is a letter I received
from Anne Rose of Hueytown, Alabama. Because of space limitations, I've
Dear Mr. Bedard:
I would like to express my sincere thanks to you for continuing to address the tragedy of the assault weapons known as airbags.
For any and all of those readers who think that you are on a soapbox, allow me to spell out in clear detail what the statistics alone will never tell.
Two minutes from home, I was involved in a three-car accident. Life as I know it came to a screeching halt when the airbag in my 1997 Chevy Cavalier exploded with what could have been deadly force.
Though I was not at fault, I will continue to pay the price of physical and emotional suffering for the rest of my life. (The others fortunately escaped injury-free, possibly due to the fact that their cars did not have airbags.) I have spent the past six months of my life having root canals done in an attempt to save my teeth that were nearly knocked out by the airbag. It took a total of five trips to dentists and endodontists and 29 shots of Novocain to complete the first two root canals alone.
I am still cutting and mashing
up my food as if I were preparing to feed a two-year-old. I am still eating
with plastic utensils in order to avoid further injury to still-loose teeth,
sleeping with towels on my pillows to try to deal with a drooling problem
created by my new inability to completely close my mouth, and hoping that,
at some point in my lifetime, I will be able to bite into a McDonald's
As if that were not enough, my right hand was forced backward at the same rate of speed at which the airbag exploded. I'm so blessed that my right hand was not completely torn off, especially since I am right-handed and a professional musician as well. Simple things like taking showers, getting dressed, washing dishes, and cleaning house became the most time-consuming, exhausting chores I have ever known. Teaching school took on a new challenge as I tried to communicate with a newly created lisp and a hand that often did not work well enough to write on the board. I began to feel like an emotional leper as people looked on in terror at my "new look." I live many days and even longer nights with comments like, "You look like a collagen experiment gone terribly wrong." My heart has broken a thousand times over my students' horrified looks and their cards and letters expressing their wishes that I would "fill better soon."
Though I have good medical insurance, I still struggle financially to pay for the co-pays for doctor appointments and prescription medications. In short, I am a short, 28-year-old female whose life has been changed forever by an encounter with a violently overpowered airbag.
In conclusion, I would invite Mr. Quinlan (complainer in the July 1998 issue) and all others in his camp to exchange their irritation with your "monthly airbag diatribe" for a walk in my shoes. Or how about a walk in the shoes of those who have suffered much greater loss as a result of airbag assault?
To you, Mr. Bedard, and any others who are willing to take up the cause: Please continue to write, call, and fight for those of us who are short of time to do so as we are still attending to our injuries, adjusting to new lifestyles, and attending the funerals of those who paid the ultimate price of airbag assault.
Anne Rose was alone in her
1997 Chevy Cavalier on a winding two-lane road. As she passed a parking
lot on her left that sloped steeply uphill away from the street, something
there caught her eye. It was a Honda heading for the exit at an especially
high speed. It was on a collision course with her. It had no driver. If
she stopped, it would cross just in front of her. So she stopped.
As the two-lane continued on ahead of her, it also dropped steeply downhill, so the oncoming Camaro had no preview of what was about to happen. The Honda struck the right side of the approaching Camaro, deflecting it partly into Rose's lane.
The two Chevys collided head-on, but mostly they missed, engaging only the Cavalier's driver-side fender and part of the grille.
"You know how, when something like that happens, everything seems to be in slow motion," she remembers. "That Camaro was tearing through the front end of my car. Coming right toward me. I thought I was about to be sheared in half. I was pulling my body as hard as I could toward the passenger side. And I can remember all of that happening before the airbag exploded."
This is what crash investigators call a "late deployment." Airbag sensors avoid firing on soft impacts; they wait until they feel g-forces above a threshold. This started as a soft collision. The Camaro "wasn't going that fast," Rose says, adding that you can't comfortably drive more than 30 mph on that road. Instead of major structural deformation, the partial frontal contact produced a long, low-g crush of sheetmetal. "It tore all the way to the front end of my door," she says. A belted occupant without an airbag should be uninjured by such an impact.
But late deployments are bad for people. Crash forces throw you forward hard against the belts, and close to the airbag. Then BANG!
All of Rose's injuries are typical of those caused by airbags. "I had on a sweatshirt. It pushed both sleeves up to my elbows. My left arm, from the base of my thumb all the way down to the inside of my elbow, was cut." Often, both arms get abrasions, but she was pushing toward the passenger side, which exposed more of her left arm to the airbag.
"If you looked at my right hand, the middle knuckle of my thumb was kind of purplish black, like getting a bump on the head, only it was on my thumb." Again, this is typical; probably the airbag cover whacked her.
"I had just taken a church pianist job the week before, so I've had to resign that."
Of course, the airbag punched her in the face, too. "For a second, I didn't know what hit me. That Camaro had time to come that far, and actually come to a stop, before that airbag ever -- I mean it exploded. Then I saw the smoke coming out."
Rose was wearing her belt. And, at five-foot-six, she's not short. Without airbags, she probably wouldn't have been injured.
Odd, isn't it, that Anne Rose was forced to buy this safety device in the first place. Remember, too, that she does not meet the federal requirements for an airbag on/off switch in her next car. Big Brother says she has to sit there and be ready to take another punch.