Airbags are passive restraints that trigger when a vehicle gets into an accident. Unlike traditional seat belts, which only work if the driver or passenger buckles up, airbags are designed to lactivate automatically at the precise moment that they are needed.
All new vehicles in the United States have to include front airbags for the driver and passenger, but many automakers go above and beyond that minimal requirement.
Important: Turning Airbags Off For Safety Concerns
Airbags are designed so that they don’t need to be turned on, but it is sometimes possible to turn automobile safety them off. This is a result of safety concerns, because there are cases where airbags can actually do more harm than good.
When a car includes the choice to disable the passenger side airbags, the deactivation mechanism is usually located on the passenger side of the dash.
The disarming procedure for driver’s side airbags is typically more complex, and following an incorrect procedure can cause the airbag to deploy. If you are worried that your driver’s side airbag may injure you, then your best strategy is to have a trained professional disable the mechanism.
How Do Airbags Work?
Airbag systems typically consist of multiple sensors, a control module, and at least one airbag. The detectors are placed in positions which are most likely to be compromised in the event of an accident, and data from accelerometers, wheel speed sensors, and other resources are also monitored by the airbag control unit. If certain conditions are detected, the control unit is capable of activating the airbags.
Each person airbag is deflated and packed into a compartment that’s found in the dash, steering wheel, seat, or elsewhere. They also contain chemical propellants and initiator devices that are capable of sparking the propellants.
When predetermined conditions are detected by a control unit, it’s capable of sending a signal to activate one or more initiator devices. The chemical propellants are then ignited, which rapidly fills the airbags with nitrogen gas. This process occurs so fast that an airbag can be fully inflated within about 30 milliseconds.
After an airbag was deployed once, it has to be replaced. The entire source of chemical propellants is burned through in order to inflate the bag a time, so these are single use devices.
Can Airbags Really Prevent Injuries?
Since airbags are triggered by a sort of chemical explosion, and the apparatus inflate so quickly, they can potentially injure or kill people. Airbags are especially dangerous to small children and people that are seated too closely into the steering wheel or dashboard when an accident occurs.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were approximately 3.3 million deployments of airbags between 1990 and 2000. During that time, the agency recorded 175 fatalities and a number of severe injuries that might be directly connected with airbag deployments. However, the NHTSA also estimated that the technology saved over 6,000 lives during that same time frame.
That’s a remarkable decrease in fatalities, but it’s vital to use this life-saving technology properly. To be able to reduce the potential for injuries, short-statured adults and young children should never be exposed to some front airbag deployment. Children under the age of 13 shouldn’t sit in the front seat of a vehicle unless the airbag is deactivated, and rear-facing car seats should never be placed in the front seat. It can also be dangerous to place objects between an airbag and a driver or passenger.
How Has Airbag Technology Evolved Through the Years?
The first airbag design was patented in 1951, but the automotive industry was very slow to adopt the technology. Airbags didn’t appear as standard equipment in the United States before 1985, and the technology didn’t see widespread adoption until a number of years after that. Passive restraint laws in 1989 required either a driver’s side airbag or automatic seat belt in all cars, and additional legislation in 1997 and 1998 expanded the mandate to cover light trucks and dual front airbags.
Airbag technology still works on the same basic principles which it did in 1985, but the designs have become remarkably more tasteful. For several years, airbags were relatively dumb devices. If a sensor was activated, the explosive charge would be triggered and the airbag would inflate. Modern airbags are more complicated, and many of them are automatically calibrated to account for the position, weight, and other characteristics of the driver and passenger.
Since contemporary smart airbags are capable of inflating with less power if conditions warrant, they are typically safer than first generation models. Newer systems also include more airbags and several types of airbags, which can help prevent injuries in additional situations. Front airbags are useless in side effects, rollovers, and other types of accidents, but many modern vehicles include airbags that are mounted in different locations.