An airbag, also known as supplemental restraint, is designed to protect drivers from making a hard impact during a car accident. It is called “passive” safety component, because it only goes to inflate after an accident has occurred, while not serving to prevent accident from occurring on the first place. Airbags help to prevent passengers to avoid or lessen the risk of severe head and chest injuries in collisions.
Cars move at a certain momentum, bringing along the passengers. So when a car crashes, the force needed to stop the car along with its objects is just too great, because the momentum has changed in a sudden, while the passengers do not have enough time to equal the balance. So that is when airbags come in. Airbags serve to help stop the passengers while inflicting as small damage as possible. The inflation of an airbag is triggered by the airbag control unit, which reacts to the crash sensor when it detects an impact that surpasses the value needed to inflate the airbag.
However, from the name “supplemental restraint”, it already suggests that airbags are not installed to replace seatbelt, but installed to be on par with seatbelts. If the airbag inflates, seat belt will act by providing body support and preventing occupant ejection. The airbag can be said to bear similar texture to a soft cushion, and this cushion is what separates the driver from other hard surfaces in the car like the wheel, windshield, and dashboard. Ever since 1998, all US cars have been required to have airbags on both sides of the front seat. Statistics have shown that an airbag can reduce the risk of death by 30% in frontal crash. But still, it is just naïve to think that airbag alone can save your life. Airbag is to coexist with seatbelt to secure the best protection.
It is considered that the science of airbags is still under development. It has been stated that 40% of injuries came from side collisions. Airbag designers are still in the process to find a way to make the best use of side airbags to reduce the rate of severe injuries from side collisions. In the meantime, we are urged to drive safely while they look to progress in this field, so expect many advances in the future.