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Airbags 101

Airbags 101

It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. Think about technology in cars just 20 years ago and what you get when you purchase a car today. However, a few things that haven’t changed over the years are the seat belt and the airbag. Maybe because it’s of the motto, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

The idea of an airbag is pretty simple. It’s just a soft surface to land on and protect yourself if a crash occurs. Since 1998, all new cars must have front airbags for the driver and passenger, but many auto manufacturers have gone beyond this minimal requirement and include up to eight airbags placed strategically throughout the vehicle. Airbags are considered supplemental protection and designed to work with seat belts. Airbags reduce the possibility of your head striking the vehicle’s interior during a crash.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there are conditions where the risk of a front airbag deployment is more significant than its safety benefits. These include a rear-facing infant restraint in the front seat area, a child under 13 with a medical condition that requires monitoring in the front seat, an adult with a medical condition when they are safer with the frontal airbag turned off and where the driver is small in stature and must sit close to the  steering wheel. Be sure to consult your doctor or your local fire station on specifics for your condition(s).

Next, to understand the basics of how airbags work, we must turn to pure physics and the laws of motion.

Moving objects have momentum (the product of an object’s mass and velocity). The purpose will continue to move in its original direction at a predetermined speed unless it meets up with an outside force. To stop an object in motion requires force acting.

With an accident, the car’s momentum stops when it comes into contact with another vehicle or object, but the persons inside will continue moving until a force is imposed to cause it to stop.

The goal of the airbag is to help stop the passenger while doing as little damage to him or her as possible. Deployment of the airbag must happen within the fraction of a second. The airbag slows the person without abruptly stopping them. In this way, there is less possibility of serious injuries.

But why do airbags sometimes not deploy during an accident?

There are several reasons where an airbag may not be activated after a crash, and airbags are not designed to deploy in every accident.

Sometimes, airbags are not designed to deploy or do not activate. Here are a few scenarios where the airbag may not deploy:

  • Minor crashes.
  • Passenger airbags may not deploy when the passenger is small, or there is no occupant in the passenger seat.
  • Some advanced side airbags may not deploy when a very lightweight passenger is in the right front passenger seat close to the side airbag.

However, one thing is for certain. You cannot rely simply on an airbag. You must fasten your seat belt. If you don’t, you’re playing with fire. So, please stay safe out there but if you’ve been injured in an accident, please call (701) 402-6644 for your free case consultation.


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