What you should know about car airbag as a car owner

An air bag is a safety feature designed to protect passengers in a head-on collision. The term “airbag” itself is misleading since there’s no significant “air” in these cushions. They are, instead, shaped and vented nylon-fabric pillows that fill, when deployed, with nitrogen gas. They are so designed that it can inflate in less than a second after a car collision; thus it helps distribute the load exerted on a human body during the impact to minimize the deceleration rate and likelihood of injury. The air bag system can be broken down into two main components. They are the impact sensor and the air bag module unit. The crash sensors recognize head-on collisions and immediately activate the inflating airbags. It takes about 15 to 20 milliseconds after the collision occurs for the crash sensors to decide whether or not the collision is serious enough to inflate the airbag. Time here is extremely critical since the window of opportunity—the time between a car’s collision into an object and an occupant’s impact into the steering wheel or instrument panel—lasts only milliseconds. So if sensors activate the airbag, it takes only about 20 milliseconds to inflate the airbag so the passenger can safely land into it. The air bag module unit consists of an inflator assembly, a nylon bag, and a breakaway cover. The inflator assembly receives the current signal travelling from the sensors. Car airbags are part of a vehicle’s supplemental restraint system (SRS). They have been around since the 1970s and are now standard equipment on every vehicle. In frontal crashes, frontal airbags reduce driver fatalities by 29 percent and fatalities of front-seat passengers age 13 and older by 32 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, it is not fool-proof. It has its own design limitations and also has some injury risks. The front airbags fail in a side on hit and resetting your deployed air bags is not possible. And we do have airbag injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford Motor Co. once investigated a complaint that a driver of a 2007 Ford Mustang in North Carolina was injured by a metal fragment following an airbag deployment. You don’t need to check your airbag to see if it is working properly, since nearly every vehicle equipped with an airbag comes with a diagnostic function and an SRS indicator light that signals when there is a problem. We have a suite of airbags-frontal airbags, side torso airbags and side curtain airbags mounted on our new cars today. Some vehicles even have rear-seat airbags. Frontal airbags have been a federal requirement since the 1999 model year and side airbags that protect the head and torso are standard on 84 percent of 2012 vehicles according to the IIHS though they are not federally mandated. The science of airbags is still new and under rapid development and car airbag technology aims at making driving even safer. Zuby posits that in the near future, automakers may program side airbags to deploy in a frontal crash. Looking further out, moreover, we can expect the use of forward-looking sensors by automakers to help avoid crashes.