How Do Airbags Work?

Everyone knows that modern cars are equipped with airbags. Fortunately, most of us don’t ever get to see those airbags do the job they’re designed to do. However, it’s a good idea to understand what airbags are and how they work. 

Having an appreciation for what happens when an airbag deploys makes you a more informed vehicle owner — and a little knowledge can help ensure you’re doing your part to avoid sustaining unnecessary airbag injuries.  

Understanding the Mechanics of Airbags

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being in a bad car accident, you probably know that airbags can pack quite a punch. But have you ever stopped to think about exactly what’s going on under your car’s dash?

The first version of airbags in U.S. vehicles was introduced by G.M. in 1973, just 50 years ago. However, they were discontinued just a few years later due to a lack of consumer interest. They’re now required by law in all new passenger vehicles and have been since 1999. 

Modern airbags have three main components: a bag, a crash sensor, and an inflation system. When the crash sensors detect that the vehicle has made an impact, the inflation system is triggered. The resulting chemical reaction causes an explosive burst of nitrogen gas to fill the airbag, which bursts out and holds the vehicle occupant in place at the moment of impact. 

How Airbags Protect Vehicle Occupants

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that over the past 30 years, airbags have saved the lives of over 50,000 people in the U.S. Airbags effectively help prevent fatal crashes by cushioning passengers. When an airbag is deployed, it forces the occupant’s body back, holding the individual in place against the seat. 

Airbags essentially perform the same job as seat belts, but they’re more effective in a sudden crash. A seat belt does little to protect the occupant’s head from slamming into the side window. If a vehicle occupant has forgotten to fasten their seat belt, the airbag is the only safety precaution that stops their head and chest from being thrown against or even through the front windshield.  

Originally, vehicles were only equipped with front airbags. Today, it’s more common to also see side airbags placed in both the front and back door of a vehicle. The combination of front and side airbags and proper seat belt use is the best protection for avoiding car accident injuries. 

Avoiding Airbag Injuries

Airbags are designed to protect you. While statistics show that the good far outweighs the bad, it’s still not uncommon for things to go wrong when airbags are involved. Airbag injuries are frequently an outcome of car accidents. In some of these cases, injuries caused by an airbag might have been better than the alternative — for example, being thrown through the windshield of the vehicle. Other times, there’s more to the story. 

Practicing basic safety while riding in a car is the best way to avoid airbag injuries. Passengers should always ride while seated in a forward-facing position, with feet on the floor and the seat belt properly fastened. 

It’s also important to note that the explosive force of an airbag is not safe for a small body. Children should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle, and most cars contain warnings on the passenger visor stating the front passenger should be over the age of 12.   

Taking Note of Airbag Recalls

Following these basic safety precautions can go a long way toward ensuring that your airbag does its job properly without causing undue injuries. However, there are still times when airbags seriously injure a vehicle’s occupants. Airbag injuries are often related to either improperly installed airbags or defective airbags. 

News headlines in recent years have seen their fair share of airbag recalls. Most notably, the Takata airbag recalls have led the NHTSA to post a “Critical Do Not Drive” warning for tens of millions of vehicles, including Acura, BMW, Dodge, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, and Mazda models.  

Every vehicle owner should be aware of pressing safety recalls that might impact their vehicle. If your car is listed as having a recalled airbag, you should contact your dealership or consult a lawyer about what steps you can take to ensure your vehicle is safe for all occupants. 

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including cartruck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!