Airbag: safety purpose, operation and unwanted effects
In recent decades, more and more measures have been taken to make driving safer. Much of the equipment that has been developed for this has to do with a computer. This is also the case for the airbags that were first fitted in test cars in 1971. From that time on, airbags have already saved many lives in serious collisions or have resulted in fewer injuries. But there are also situations in which an airbag is less beneficial. In most cases, however, this is due to behavior that should have been avoided. Airbags are based on normal behavior of the driver and passengers.
Automotive Inflatable Restraint
An air bag is an inflatable cushion that is mounted in a car for protection in the event of an accident. Other names for the airbag are safety cushion, air cushion, or pop cushion. The literal translation of air bag would be air bag. However, the first three letters of the name do not refer to air, but are an abbreviation for Automotive Inflatable Restraint.
First airbags in test cars and Oldsmobile Toronado
The first airbags from 1971 were made by Ford USA for a number of test cars, but it was not until 1973 that the Oldsmobile Toronado was released that was equipped with an airbag.
An airbag is automatically inflated in the event of a shock and thus offers protection to the occupants of a car. The material the airbag is made of is usually nylon. The risk of death in an accident is reduced by about 12 percent by an airbag.
The system of an airbag has four parts, namely the control unit, a computer, sensors and actuators. During a ride, the control unit continuously takes measurements, whereby the measured values determine whether it is a curb or a real collision. The airbag is only deployed when a certain value is exceeded.
In some systems it can also be determined in the control unit which airbags should be deployed and with what force.
To blow up
Inflating the airbag in an accident must of course be done very quickly in order to provide protection. The air pocket contains an explosive substance that is ignited by a small and very fast-acting glow element. The explosion caused the airbag to deploy at a speed of 300 kilometers per second. The bag fills with nitrogen or argon after expansion.
The impact after which an airbag unfolds is comparable to a head-on collision with a wall at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour.
Airbags do not replace seat belts
It is a misunderstanding to think that it is no longer necessary to wear seat belts with an airbag. The airbag is only an addition to the seat belt protection. Airbags are not only found in the dashboard, but there are also cars equipped with side airbags.
Investigate British trauma physician Mark Chong
Airbags can also have unwanted effects. For example, an investigation has shown that in a collision twenty-one percent of injuries are caused by folding out the bag. That research was led by Mark Chong, a British trauma doctor. The injuries often consist of fractures. There may also be clavicle fractures and dislocated shoulders. The speed at which the airbag slides along body parts can cause burns.
Other potentially unwanted effects
In addition to these injuries, which Dr. Chong’s research showed, other unwanted effects can occur such as:
- Baby seat: A baby seat can tip over when an airbag is opened and the baby can suffocate. It is therefore better not to place a baby seat with an airbag.
- Glasses wearers: Glasses wearers are also at an increased risk because the explosive inflation of the air bag can cause eye damage.
- Hearing: The bang when opening the airbag can damage hearing.
- Smaller people: These run the risk of inadequate protection because an airbag is based on the average height of the driver and any passengers.
- Elderly: If older people sit closer to the handlebars, there is also a higher risk, namely arm fractures.
Safety goal and normal behavior
An airbag is of course designed for passengers to sit normally in the car. If that is not the case, bad situations can arise. An example is when the passenger sits slumped next to the driver and rests one or two feet on the dashboard. It is a strange attitude, but it does occur. If the airbag then opens with all force, the feet can end up in a strange position. Another example is that a dog sitting in the passenger seat can accidentally end up between the airbag and the roof. A baby or child on your lap in the passenger seat can also be fatal.