Airbags are balloon-like devices that expand when a car experiences a collision, providing a cushion of air that prevents a person bashing their face on the dashboard or steering wheel and suffering concussion, disfigurement or worse. Airbags are usually fitted in the front seats. A car that is described as having a “driver’s side airbag” has one airbag only, designed to protect the driver. If a car has “dual airbags,” it has one airbag for the driver and another air-bag for the passenger. A side airbag inflates from the side of a car and provides protection to the side of the body if the seat occupant is thrown against the side of a vehicle, or else it works in conjunction with the side impact beams, protecting an occupant from the impact of a side collision. A curtain air bag also protects passengers from side-on impact, but at the head level rather than the chest level. Curtain and side airbags can also be fitted in the rear. Some makes of air bag have sensors that detect for things like crash severity (and can deploy fully or partially depending on the forces involved) or seat occupancy – so the passenger side airbag does not deploy if the seat is empty.
While it is unquestioned that airbags save lives, there are still some safety considerations. Firstly, an airbag is designed to be used in conjunction with a seatbelt – just because you’ve got a driver’s side air-bag does not mean you don’t have to buckle up. Secondly, an airbag inflates very rapidly, reaching full inflation in 0.01 of a second. While an aribag is designed to cushion you rather than bounce you backwards, it still deploys with a fair amount of force. Stories circulate about people having glasses or even arms broken by an airbag deploying. This is why it is very important to put rear-facing and front-facing child seats in the back seat – the force of an airbag deploying can injure or even kill an infant. However, some car manufacturers are aware that if a parent is driving alone with young children, this can cause a dilemma: child in the front seat and happy but at risk of being badly hurt by an airbag if a crash happens; or child in the back seat wailing for Mum and distracting the driver and thus increasing the chances of a crash? Some modern vehicle have designed the occupant sensor for the passenger side airbag to not trigger the airbag if a child seat is placed in the front passenger seat.
We hope that helps answer the question ‘What is What is Airbags?’!
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