Recently, a last-gen Toyota Fortuner SUV met with a rather massive accident in Mumbai. Fortunately, no one got seriously hurt but the SUV suffered colossal damage. As per the owner of the SUV, the Fortuner was being driven by his trusted driver, who ended up ramming into the rear of a flat-bed tow truck. While the driver of the Fortuner survived the crash with no major injuries to speak of, the SUV has suffered a lot of damage. The huge repair bill of Rs. 27 lakhs left the owner perplexed as to why the airbags didn’t deploy despite such a massive impact. We decided to study the images of the damaged vehicle closely to figure out why the airbags didn’t deploy in this particular accident. (We can only take an educated guess though – only the engineers of the company will be able to give the exact reasons for certain.)
- First, it is evident from the images of the accident spot that the Fortuner went under the trailer’s rear-end diagonally. Without any under-run protection on the trailer, it is actually the cabin of the car that sustained the major impact. In such a case, no airbag will deploy as the sensors won’t register an impact at first.
- Second, the only occupant in the SUV at the time of the crash was its driver. As can be seen in the image we have above, it’s actually the passenger side of the vehicle that has suffered the maximum damage. Moreover, it’s not known if the driver was wearing the seatbelt at the time of the crash and that could be another reason for the airbag not deploying.
- The owner of this Fortuner argues that even the passenger side airbag didn’t deploy. He goes on to say that he was in the front passenger seat hardly 20 minutes prior to the crash and it worries him to know that the passenger-side airbag didn’t work. Well, while we are happy that the owner wasn’t in the car at the time of the crash, it’s not surprising to know that the passenger-side airbag didn’t deploy. The passenger-side airbag has been designed in a way that it doesn’t deploy if there’s no occupant on the front passenger seat.
However, what’s surprising to the owner is that the airbags didn’t deploy in spite of his SUV suffering such a huge damage. We feel that this could be because of the primary impact not activating the airbags’ sensors. Like we said, it’s the car’s cabin that seems to have sustained the major impact. Moreover, the speed of the vehicle could have reduced a lot before the secondary crash (the moment when the bumper of the Fortuner hit the truck). These could be the factors for the airbags not deploying.
It may be noted that the airbags deploying unnecessarily can cause more harm than good. Airbags contain really hot gases and can cause minor burns to the passengers. Their primary job is to provide a cushion for the occupants of the vehicle, against colliding with the dashboard and other hard parts of the vehicle’s interiors. Also, if speed is below a certain threshold, airbags will not deploy. Airbags are not meant to deploy in accidents where there is a significant cabin intrusion. This is to prevent the airbags from exploding into the passenger’s faces and upper bodies.
All said, only experts at Toyota can correctly answer the reason for airbags not deploying. Hence, the pointers given by us are merely the most probable theories for the airbags not working. The owner of the SUV has already been contacted by Toyota Kirloskar Motor’s Headquarters in Bangalore. He has been assured of a proper investigation into this matter. Hence, we can hope to hear the official version regarding the airbags pretty soon.