How Do Airbags Work?

There is no denying the fact that airbags have made cars a lot safer. Ever since their introduction in 1969 as ‘Air Pillows’, they have helped in bringing down accident mortality rates to a bare minimum. However, recently the safety of airbags has been questioned. This has lead people to wonder if these safety devices can, in fact, be dangerous. We need to understand the internal working of an airbag in order to answer this question.

The Science Behind Airbags

Airbags aren’t that complex and the science behind them is quite simple. It is merely a chain of events that is triggered when the car suddenly stops. It can be caused either by hitting a tree or a pole or ramming into the back of another car. Whatever the case, the accelerator of the car notices this sudden drop in speed and triggers a circuit which in turn sends an electric current through a heating element. The heat created lights up a charge which is composed of sodium azide pellets. This charge explodes and produces nitrogen gas which inflates the nylon airbag that shoots out of the steering column. It takes only a fraction of a second for this process to complete.

Benefits of Airbags

If the airbags work as per their design, they can significantly reduce the injuries sustained by car drivers and passengers in the event of an accident. The airbags are designed to stop the body from hitting the steering column when the car comes to a sudden halt. Not only does it soften the impact but also spread it over a large part of the body. This ensures that the impact isn’t focused on a single body part like the forehead or neck. Moreover, the airbags deflate very quickly after successfully stopping the driver’s momentum to ensure that their head doesn’t bounce off it.

Safety Concerns Regarding Airbags

The working mechanism of the airbags is not flawed but the equipment itself can be dangerous. For instance, if the airbags aren’t positioned correctly in the steering column then they won’t be able to perform their job properly. In fact, they would cause more harm than good if they aren’t deployed as they are supposed to. Moreover, the airbags become a safety concern if your windshield is damaged. A cracked windshield can weaken the car’s frame and its ability to absorb sudden impacts. So, in order to ensure safety, you must get your windshield checked regularly.