You expect your air bags to protect you from injury during an accident. You expect to be able to use your sun visor to shield your eyes from the bright glare of the sun. However, in some vehicles, the combination of deploying air bags and in-use sun visors can have dangerous consequences, including blinding you. This page describes those dangers in some of those vehicles.
A young man was driving a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse in rural Texas. Because the sun was setting on the horizon, the passenger had her sun visor down to shield her eyes. As the car turned slowly into a Little League parking lot, its left front wheel struck a small post in the center of the driveway that had been obscured by dust kicked up by other cars. Despite the low speed, and despite the lack of any damage to the front bumper or front end, the air bags deployed.
As the passenger air bag deployed, it slammed into the passenger’s sun visor (sun shade), smashing it apart and sending it flying. As a result, our client was hit in the face and was blinded in one eye. The sun visor remained attached to the car by only a single strand of wire, since the air bag smashed it off its attachments.
The force from the deploying air bag was so strong, that it ripped a jagged metal insert from inside the sun visor right through the visor’s plastic shell. The force was also strong enough to shatter the vanity mirror that was part of the sun visor.
Given this dangerous interaction between the air bag and the sun visor, and given the devastating injury that it caused, it is not surprising that there was blood on the surface of the air bag.
To determine whether the passenger air bag was designed in a way that allowed it to rip the sun visor off during deployment when the visor was being used, we tested another 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse at an independent air bag test facility. For the testing, we used both real-time video cameras and very sophisticated high-speed cameras. This high-speed video of the testing allowed us to capture the passenger air bag / sun visor interaction in great detail, and to clearly document how the air bag rips the sun visor off its attachments.
In every one of our tests, the passenger air bag smashed into the sun visor, ripped it off its attachments, and sent it flying through the cabin of the car, where it could pose a danger to the passengers.
Although this accident, and the testing we conducted, was in a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse, other cars are also at risk for the same danger. For example, our investigation has revealed the following cars sold in the United States all use the same or substantially similar passenger air bags and passenger sun visors as the ones we tested that demonstrated the danger:
o 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse
o 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder
o 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 Dodge Stratus
o 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 Chrysler Sebring
Other cars may use different air bags or different sun visors, but that does not necessarily mean that they are free from danger. For example, some other vehicles may also have a passenger air bag that deploys upward, along the windshield, and that can strike a sun visor that is being used. At the same time, some other vehicles may have sun visors that are not specifically designed to stay together after being hit by an air bag.