Airbags certainly do save lives, but getting hit in the face at over 300 kmh — even by a bag of air — is not without its consequences.
A teenage girl in Michigan in the US got a real eyeful when an inflating airbag actually left its mesh pattern on the surface of her eye.
In this case, the airbag inflated so fast that she didn't even have time to blink. As the nylon fabric of the airbag slammed into her eyeball, it imprinted its canvas pattern on her right eye (A in the photo above) and tore the surface of her left (B). Doctors examined her injuries using a fluorescent dye that shows scratches on the cornea under blue light.
The girl's injuries actually healed after a couple of weeks, and her eyesight was totally unaffected. But there are rare, unfortunate cases where the retina detaches or eye tissue ruptures and patients can even go blind.
Most eye injuries from airbags are ultimately rather minor, and the consequences of not using an airbag are usually far worse. Just try to shut your eyes before the airbag inflates. You usually have, oh, about 0.04 seconds.
* This story was first reported by the New England Journal of Medicine.