Why airbag matters in cars - Safety Guide

Why Airbag matters in Cars – Safety Guide

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Have you ever seen the SRS logo on your steering wheel or dashboard? SRS stands for Supplemental Restraint System, or Airbags in layman’s terms. Seat belts have been the only form of protection in cars for years, protecting passengers from crash impacts. However, as history unfolded and many new technologies began to be integrated into our vehicles, airbags rose to prominence. In this instalment of our safety series, we’ll go over airbags in depth, including their functionality, use, benefits, and drawbacks.

What exactly are airbags?

Airbags are soft pillow-like balloons that deploy as soon as a vehicle collides at a speed greater than 50 kilometers per hour. Airbags are like balloons without air that inflates on collision, according to safety guidelines and impact reports. They are embedded in different locations. The first patent for an airbag was issued during World War II, and it was not until several years later that it was used in cars.

By 1988, airbags for both the driver and the passenger were required in all new cars sold by car dealers services in the United States. Later, the two-airbag system was expanded to six
and eight airbags. Airbags, according to some estimates, have minimized the chance of dying in a frontal collision.

The Science behind Airbags:

Airbags, like all other protective devices, are designed to mitigate the damage to the occupants, but they only deploy when there has been an impact. The science behind airbags is straightforward: they minimize the risk to passengers and the driver of the vehicle after an accident. As soon as a car is struck, momentum begins to play a role.

Momentum is the force that is triggered when a moving object comes to a complete stop. If a moving vehicle is struck, the car comes to a halt, but the occupants remain in motion, allowing the front passengers to crash with the dashboard or the front windshield. Any supplementary restraint system’s purpose is to help the passenger stop while causing as little harm as possible.

The airbags achieve their goals by slowing the passenger’s speed to zero with little or no impact. The space between the passenger and the dashboard is taken up by the airbags (primary airbags). If a vehicle collides with something in a matter of seconds, the airbags deploy, inflating and providing a cushion for the passenger or driver. When the occupants collide with the airbag, their speed slows down as well, reducing the risk of injury. We can also look out for automotive services to check whether your airbag is functional.

Components of Airbag:

An airbag has four basic components that help it reduce the passenger’s frontal impact:

1. Bag:

The bag is made of a thin nylon fabric that is folded into the steering wheel, dashboard, and other locations as needed.

2. Sensor:

Sensors, like any other device, assist in the identification of any deviation from the regular values. When a collision happens, an accelerometer detects a shift in speed between 20 and 30 kilometres per hour, alerting the sensor to inflate the bags.

3. Inflation Device:

Eventually, there’s a canister filled with chemical gases that assist in inflating the container. The canister produces nitrogen gas by reacting sodium azide (NaN3) with potassium nitrate (KNO3). The airbag is inflated by hot nitrogen blasts.

The method of inflating Airbags:

As previously stated, the inflation process is very easy and results in an inflated pocket. But it’s not as easy as it seems. Early attempts to implement such a device failed miserably because the release of compressed gas raised various concerns, such as whether there was enough space in a vehicle for a gas canister. How could the bag be made to expand rapidly and efficiently at a range of operating temperatures while not making a deafening bang?

The solution was a collection of small solid-propellant inflators. These solid propellants burn, and they burn very quickly, producing gases that inflate the bag. You can inquire as to how quickly I can react. That quick! The entire process takes only one-fifth of a second! As the gases reached the fabric bag, it burst out of the dash at speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.

After the airbags have done their job of avoiding serious injury, they deflate in a fraction of a second through tiny holes in the bag to allow room for movement. And the dramatic effect
produced by the floating powder is actually normal talcum powder, which keeps the bag lubricated on the inside of the dash.

Concerns over Airbag Protection:

Although airbags can save a person’s life in the event of a crash, they can also be dangerous. According to reports, the closest you are to the airbag, the more likely you are to injure yourself. The use of seatbelts has been determined to be safe at a maximum of 10 inches from the airbags. Today’s airbags are all connected to the seatbelt, but if you don’t buckle up, you won’t get any protection.

Seat belts are also needed since airbags only deploy after a certain speed limit has been reached. As a result, if the crash happens below that speed, the airbags will not deploy, and the seat belt will serve as the primary means of protection. However, as soon as a child enters the picture, all of these ideas and studies become irrelevant. An airbag, regardless of its type, can cause serious injury or even death to an infant or child.

As a result, laws were established banning children from riding in the front seat. If required, use safety measures such as a front-facing child safety seat, a booster seat, or a properly fitted lap/shoulder belt, and shift the seat as far back as possible.

Airbag’s Place:

Although airbags were initially limited to steering-wheel-mounted bags, later years saw airbags protect the dashboard as well, saving the passenger’s life. However, as technology advances, new ways to install airbags emerge.

1. Airbags in the steering wheel – to shield the driver.

2. Airbags in the dashboard – to shield the occupant.

3. Side airbags – Airbags are installed in doors and door pillars to protect passengers from side impacts.

4. Head airbags – To shield the driver and passengers from neck and head injuries.

5. Curtain airbags – Curtain airbags are another choice for head protection in side impacts.

6. Bonnet airbags – Although not intended for occupants, bonnet airbags are designed to shield pedestrians in the event of a frontal collision.

Significant Safety Guidelines for Airbags:

If there’s one thing you should know about the airbags in your car, it’s that they’re there to save lives. Accidents at low, medium and high speeds occur regularly. Some cause severe – and often fatal – injuries, while others cause mild to moderate injuries. And, regardless of the nature of the incident, the application of an airbag may have a substantial effect on the result of a traffic collision.

A fully functional network of airbags, in addition to adequate lap and shoulder seat belts, is intended to act as a safety mechanism, offering drivers a greater chance of survival during a traffic accident. The subject of airbags, on the other hand, is fraught with controversy. And, in some instances, airbag inflation has had the opposite effect of keeping drivers safe, resulting in serious bodily injury or even death. So, what does a driver do? Take a look at the tips and details below to learn more about airbag safety and how it affects your driving experience.

Airbags Save Lives by the Numbers:

Did you know that since 1999, front airbags have been a standard feature on all vehicles? Some cars now come fitted with ten airbags. The Volvo XC60, for example, has overhead airbags.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), airbags in newer vehicles minimise driver casualties in frontal accidents by 29%. Passenger airbags have reduced fatalities among passengers over the age of 13 by around 32%.

Frontal airbags saved 50,457 lives between 1987 and 2017. When used in combination with seatbelts, they are now considered necessary safety devices.

Knee airbags are the only airbag that the IIHS has found to be ineffective. Knee airbags can, in some cases, actually increase the risk of injury. After reviewing 400 front crash studies,
researchers discovered that knee airbags only decreased accidents by half a per cent, 7.9%
versus 7.4% when front passengers are buckled up.

The value of your role in terms of Airbag Protection cannot be overstated:

Wearing your seat belt every time you get behind the wheel adds greatly to your overall safety in the event of an accident. However, the proximity to the airbag should be considered as well. When people are not seated properly or do not use their seat belts properly – if at all – severe head injuries and trauma occur during airbag deployment.

Place yourself as far away from the middle of the steering wheel as possible while still maintaining control over how you handle the pedals to reduce the risk and retain the advantages of having an airbag while driving. For maximum protection, you may need to change your steering wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration goes even further, urging drivers to leave a 10-inch gap between the middle of the steering wheel and the dashboard for the right front passenger. With this in mind, it’s preferable if the airbag deflates toward your chest rather than the narrow region of your forehead. This protects your heart while also cushioning your head, lowering your chances of serious injury.

Are there any Children on Board? Hold them at the back of the Bus:

Adult drivers and passengers are covered by the majority of frontal airbags. When it comes to children, however, inflated balloons are dangerous – even lethal. If you’re driving with a kid under the age of 13, make sure they’re properly seated and restrained in the back of your vehicle, whether they’re in a rear-facing or front-facing restraint like a car seat. Seating children who have outgrown their car seats in the middle back seat is still the safest option.

Even if you’re just travelling a short distance, it’s important to seat a kid in the back seat. In a recent study, we discovered that one out of every four parents do not follow best seating
practices while driving one mile or less. The short distance gives the impression of safety. This is particularly worrying since the majority of injuries occur close to home.

Frontal impact collisions account for 59 per cent of passenger vehicle “tow-away” crashes and 38 per cent of passenger-vehicle occupant deaths, according to reports. Children who are sitting in the back of the car are less likely to die in a traffic accident since that part of the vehicle is safer. If you don’t have a back seat or need to place your child in the front seat, getting an on/off switch for the passenger airbag is vital for mitigating risk.

A Significant Note About Airbag On/Off Switches:

The federal government requires you to turn off the driver’s side airbag in your car in a very limited number of circumstances.

You might be given permission to turn off your airbag if you’re shorter and have trouble sitting comfortably away from the steering wheel, or if you’re a woman who’s late in her pregnancy and can’t keep the room between her belly and the steering wheel. For more details, consult your driver’s manual.


Airbags are much more helpful than harmful. It’s just a matter of being aware of how you use them and what you can do to reduce the chance of injury if they deploy during a crash.

The more you know about airbags, the better you’ll be on your long journey as a seasoned driver down the lane! You can also take tips to choose the right car in budget when buying your brand-new car.

Also Read: Car safety features you should keep in mind

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