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Pothole Protection: Mother says car airbag deployed after hitting a pothole, demands answers


News4's Caresse Jackman digs deeper after an airbag was deployed, giving a child a minor concussion.
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 1:36 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 4:59 PM CDT
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SMITHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - For many of us, dodging potholes has become a part of our daily commute.

But when a Midstate woman’s family couldn’t dodge one, it caused an airbag to deploy, injuring her stepdaughter and raising many questions about her vehicle’s safety.

Rebecca Stewart’s stepdaughter and husband drove in Murfreesboro when another car veered towards them. Stewart’s husband swerved, running over a pothole.

The hit caused the side airbags to deploy.

“The curtain side airbag went off and hit our daughter in the head and caused a mild concussion,” Stewart said.

She says the ordeal has left lasting fears for her stepdaughter.

“She refuses to sit by the door. So she will sit in the middle of the seat to keep from having to sit by the door,” Stewart said.

Stewart got in touch with Nissan’s consumer reporting line and filed a claim with Nissan to get it fixed.

“I wanted to know why the airbag would’ve gone off just over a pothole,” Stewart said.

But she didn’t get the answer she was hoping for.

“They called me back and said that they would fix my car-- but they would never explain to me or give me a reason as to what happened,” Stewart said.

Airbag deployed in Rebecca Stewart's car
Airbag deployed in Rebecca Stewart's car(News4)
Pothole hit by Rebecca Stewart
Pothole hit by Rebecca Stewart(News4)

When News4 Investigates reached out to Nissan, they stated that after reviewing the incident, they determined the airbag could’ve deployed as expected, given the impact from the pothole. It’s an answer Stewart finds troubling.

“The tire didn’t even blow out or no tire damage…or anything like that. It was just the airbag went off, and that was what’s so crazy about it. Just over a pothole,” Stewart said.

Stewart says she is worried about the next person with so many potholes along roads and highways.

“Yes, they are designed for protection, but for rollovers and head-on collisions and for side collisions and that kind of thing, and that may be good. But it’s our situation. It wasn’t,” Stewart said.

According to data from the National Highway Safety Administration, nationwide in 2020, 31 people died in crashes due to “pavement surface irregularities,” which include potholes.

“I feel like, to this day. That there was something faulty on this car as to what caused it, caused that to happen,” Stewart said.

News4 Investigates also wanted to know how much time and effort car manufacturers put into protecting drivers from road hazards, like potholes. After reaching out to multiple manufacturers, our answers came from Stellantis in Michigan.

Thursday at 6, we’ll show you the innovative ways they’re analyzing vehicles to keep drivers safe behind the wheel.

2020 report of fatalities in car crashes
2020 report of fatalities in car crashes(News4)

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