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Airbags- More than just a lot of hot air?


espite the controversy about airbags, the fact remains that they save lives. Today, all new cars are equipped with airbags, and statistics show that they do save lives. They also prevent serious head and chest injuries, especially in the worst kind of accidents ó head-on crashes. Driver air bags reduce deaths by around 14 percent, while passenger bags cut down on fatalities by around 11 percent. Airbags are designed to work in conjunction with lap and shoulder seat belts, and one without the other is not nearly as effective.

Air bags are designed to inflate in collisions in which a vehicle crashes into something solid at a speed of 8-14 mph. Air bags are activated by sensors which detect a front-end crash and then send an electronic signal. This signal sets off a chemical reaction that inflates the air bag with nitrogen gas. Additionally, air bags are outfitted with vents that act to deflate them after they have cushioned the passenger. Air bags are designed to cushion passengers and prevent them from hitting their heads, necks, and chests on the steering wheel or dashboard.

Unfortunately, there are some problems with airbags that have resulted in injury, some of them serious ones. In fact, there have been 87 deaths resulting from air bag deployment since 1987, but this figure is relatively small considering that there have been 1,800,000 air bag deployments since November of that year.

There is a common factor that all these air-bag fatalities share: the victims were too close when the bag began to deflate. This happens because the air bags deploy with a great deal of force, which decreases as the bag inflates further. If a passenger is sitting at least 10 inches from the center of the airbag that passenger will only come in contact with the deployed airbag after it has reached complete inflation.


If a passenger is sitting closer, he or she can be hit with enough force to be seriously, if not fatally, injured. The extreme risk zone is between 2-3 inches from the center of the bag. Seat belts are especially important because they not only prevent passengers from being thrown around the car into hard surfaces, but they also restrain a passenger from being thrown forward into a deploying air bag.

AIR BAGS AND SEAT BELTS WERE DESIGNED TO WORK TOGETHER. They work as a complete system, and one without the other is not only ineffective, but also potentially dangerous.

The risk of injury from air bags when passengers are positioned correctly and using their seat belts is very small, while the benefits from air bags in serious crashes is significant. Without an air bag, a passengerís face will very likely smash into the steering wheel, especially in a serious frontal crash.

There is one absolute rule: infants should NEVER be placed in the front seat of a car where there is a passenger side air bag. Place infants in a rear-facing restraint in the center of the back seat, secured to the car with an adult safety belt. Also, make sure the infant is securely buckled in.

Itís also a good idea for ALL kids to ride in the back seat. The back seat is much safer, and statistics show that children sitting in the back seat during a crash had a much greater rate of surviving without serious injury. Keeping your children in the back seat, buckled in with both a lap belt and a shoulder belt, keeps them away from the front air bag.

When it comes to airbags, donít discount both the risks and the benefits. There are now switches that will disable the car's airbags, but remember: if you turn off your air bag, youíll be turning off possible life-saving protection in the event of a head-on collision. Once you know all the facts and rules, it should become clear ó air bags save lives.




Also see:


Your Car's Interior

5 Great Entertainment Options for Your Car

8 Steps to Interior Car Care

First Aid Tools for Your Car

Leather, Cloth, or Vinyl: Choosing the Best Seat Covers for Your Car




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