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About Vehicle Airbag Systems

Before airbags existed, there were seat belts. Seat belts were the original form of passenger restraint in cars. Seatbelts started to appear in cars in the 1950s and have saved so many lives. However, in the never-ending pursuit of better “safety technology”, automobile manufacturers created airbags in the early 1980s.  When combined with seatbelts, airbags are super effective safety devices.

Vehicle Airbag Systems

How Airbags Work:

An airbag’s goal is simply to slow the passenger’s forward motion during a collision as evenly as possible.  According to this Houston, TX, Dodge dealer, the process begins with a motion sensor’s signal.  When one of these sensors detects a large, inevitable collision-magnitude force, it sends an electrical pulse to the car’s airbag inflation unit.

Usually, this ignites a charge that creates a hot blast of nitrogen gas. This gas drives the airbag out from its storage site in the vehicle at more than 200 miles per hour. The inflated airbag, along with seatbelts, prevents people from moving very far forward. About a second after inflation, the gas quickly dissipates through small holes in the bag. Even though the inflation process happens in only one-twenty-fifth of a second, serious injury is almost always avoided.

Airbags vs Seatbelts:

Since automobile airbags’ early days, experts have cautioned that airbags are definitely to be used in conjunction with seat belts. Seat belts were originally necessary because airbags originally worked only in front-end collisions occurring at more than 10 miles per hour. Only seat belts could help in side swipes and crashes (although side-mounted airbags are common now), secondary impacts and rear-end collisions. However, today, automotive engineers design airbags and seatbelts so that they work together.

Children & Airbags:

It didn’t take long to learn that an airbag’s force can hurt those who are too close to it, particularly kids. Researchers have figured out that the risk zone for driver airbags is the first 2 to 3 inches of inflation. That means that placing yourself 10 inches from your driver airbag gives you a big margin of safety. The rules are very different for small children. An airbag can really injure or perhaps even kill an unbuckled child who is sitting close. Experts agree that kids 12 and under should ride buckled up in an age-appropriate car seat in the rear seat of a vehicle. They shouldn’t come in direct contact with any airbag device for safety reasons.

In certain special cases, vehicle owners can request for the capability to deactivate their car’s airbags. Generally speaking, you cannot deactivate your airbag without installing a retrofit on-off switch. While you’re on the internet reading this, look for the NHTSA brochure, “Airbags and On-Off Switches: Information for an Informed Decision,” and the accompanying form, Request for airbag On-Off Switch.  This information will let you decide whether disabling your car’s airbag system will make your vehicle safer under the conditions in which you typically drive.  If you decide to go forward with an airbag on-off switch, many dealerships can help you with the installation.

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Sean Bean is fond of vehicles and love to grasp information about them, no matter those are 4 wheelers or 2. Provide him a cup of cappuccino and he can talk for hours.

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