Airbags are the impact cushions inside a vehicle that are deployed during an accident to protect the occupants from injury. Together with the seat belt, they form the SRS – the Supplemental Restraint System or the safety restraint system.
Various types of airbags for optimal safety
Frontal airbags in particular are standard in almost all new cars. However, newer safety standards mean that more and more forms of airbag systems are being used in vehicles.
The frontal airbags are located in the steering wheel panel and dashboard for the driver and front passenger. In the event of an impact, the airbag system’s air cushions are inflated within 50 milliseconds. In this way, the head and chest of the occupants are supported and the load is distributed as best as possible. The airbags are then completely deflated again 150 milliseconds after the accident. To know all this, it becomes crucial to understand what is an airbag suspension and how does it work.
Since there is little material on the sides of the car compared to the rear and front to absorb the force of an impact, side airbags are also present in many cars. These are also referred to as thorax bags because they mainly protect the chest area, the lungs, and the pelvis. Occupants are thus held better in the seat. Side airbags are in the door panels, but more commonly in the seatbacks.
Other types of airbags
In addition to frontal and side airbags, other types of airbags are also installed in some models. These primarily protect the head, shoulder, neck, and knees from damage caused by collisions. Additional airbag types include:
- The head airbag between the A and C pillars
- The knee airbag below the dashboard
- The belt airbag in the seat belt
- The seat airbag below the seat surface
Components and functions of an airbag
The airbag system patented by Mercedes in 1971 consists of various components. Today, the major components of an airbag include the airbag module, the airbag control unit, and the crash sensors.
The task of the crash sensors
Acceleration or crash sensors are installed inside the car, for example on the control unit, on the pillars, or on the front end. To avoid misfires, there are always two acceleration sensors in a car that measures vehicle deceleration independently of one another. If both sensors detect an abrupt stop of the car, the airbags are triggered. Hence, you should never defy yourself of the benefits of 4wd suspension upgrades.
In addition to acceleration sensors, there are also pressure sensors that primarily detect a sudden increase in pressure on the side doors. But the contact switches on the seat belts and the seat occupancy sensors also serve as signals for early crash detection.
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Evaluation via the airbag control unit
The control unit has the task of processing the signals sent by the crash sensors and thus calculating the impending impact. The time of the collision, the speed, and the angle of the impact are calculated to be able to deploy the relevant airbags at the ideal time.
Safety instructions for the use of airbags
In order for the airbag system in the car to function as well as possible, it is crucial to observe the following safety instructions.
Safety for children
It is important to ensure that babies and children up to 150 centimeters tall and under the age of 12 are only allowed to sit in the front of the car with the passenger airbag switched off and with a suitable child seat.
Keep the dashboard clear
Especially on long journeys, it makes sense for the passenger to rest their feet on the dashboard. However, this harbors the risk that when the airbag is deployed, the front passenger’s knees will be pushed back, which can lead to serious head, chest, and leg injuries.
Maintain steering wheel distance
As a driver, it also makes sense to ensure that you are particularly safe when using the frontal airbag. It is therefore advisable to keep an arms distance of about 30 centimeters from the steering wheel in order to avoid additional injuries from the airbag pressure.
Avoid supporting yourself with your hands
Lastly, safety is enhanced during a crash when vehicle occupants try not to use their hands to brace themselves forward in the collision. This does not disrupt the inflation of the airbag and reduces the risk of injury.