Is it safe to put an elderly person in a car with an airbag?...

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 25, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it safe to put an elderly person in a car with an airbag? My grandmother is rather frail and I'm concerned that putting her in a car to go to a doctor's appointment puts her at risk from an airbag deploying in the event of even a small accident. Should we keep the airbag turned on for her, or should we turn it off (if the car has that option)?

Expert Answers

Laura Juel is an occupational therapist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. She works in the Outpatient Occupational Therapy Program and the Duke Driving Program for older drivers.

I think the importance of having an elderly loved one have continued access to health care outweighs the risk of airbag injuries. There are things you can do to minimize the risk of injury. If the elderly family member must sit in the front seat, push the seat back to a position that is farthest from the dashboard. This way, if the airbag was to deploy, the impact may be lessened. If your vehicle has the option to turn off the airbag you can do this. I believe car manufacturers have installed this option for smaller stature people sitting in the front seat, this may go for a frail elderly person as well. Another option is to have your family member sit in the back seat if they are able to negotiate getting in and out. In both instances, statistics show that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of injuries for all ages. Make sure to leave plenty of time for your travel to your appointments to minimize stress on your driving abilities.