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Call Kurtis Investigates: Why Didn't My Air Bag Go Off In Crash?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13)- You've heard of air bags exploding when they shouldn't, some even killing people, but Sacramento mom Effie Greer says her car's airbag did not go off in a crash when her sister was driving.

After picking kids from school, Greer's sister was driving her car right in front of her when another vehicle ran a stop light, crashing into her sister.

"I was thinking I was going to see the white pillow thing," said Greer.

The police report says she was going 25 to 30 miles per hour when her car collided with a car coming from the side.

"How much more did the car need to go through to deploy the air bags?" asks Greer.

We found that since 2008 federal records show at least 57 complaints of air bags not deploying, involving one death and 51 people injured. We turned to the people behind crash tests who say it's rare to hear of a new car, with an air bag that didn't go off, when it should have.

"Air bags are actually very strong and can be very dangerous in situations where they're not needed," said research engineer Becky Mueller with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Mueller says the standard for an air bag to deploy is a car hitting a wall at 10 to 12 miles per hour. nut there's no standard for two moving cars where the impact may be less severe. The car relies on sensors and factors like whether you braked hard before impact.

"If you're still here, you walked away from that crash; then we didn't need that air bag to save your life," said Mueller.

Greer's sister came out of the accident okay with some chest bruising.

"Thank god she's OK," she said.

We reached out to the manufacturer of Greer's car, which says it investigated and the nature of the accident wasn't enough to deploy the bags. With the only industry standard being based on someone hitting a wall at 10 mph and how it translates in a real life car accident?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that real-life crashes are more complicated than hitting a wall, but that they want air bags to deploy only when they're really needed and not go off when you're driving over a speed bump, which has been known to happen.

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