The concept for an airbag in a vehicle was first conceived in the early 1950s. Several inventors had thought that there had to be a better way than the standard seatbelt to protect their families in a crash. Through extensive research, many different designs and a lot of testing, U.S. carmakers Ford and General Motors decided to start offering them in the early 1970s. The airbag is designed to work with your vehicle’s seatbelt to provide the highest level of safety when a crash occurs. When airbags were originally introduced, they were only put in the steering wheel to protect the driver. In the late 1990s, lawmakers required vehicles to have passenger side airbags as well. Today, vehicles have these airbags, and in addition, many have airbags in the seat, door and the roof of your vehicle.
Airbags are complicated parts designed specifically to be used in certain situations. They are meant to deploy when a crash occurs that is equivalent to hitting a solid or fixed barrier at 8 – 14 miles per hour or higher. When driving down the road the forward motion you are creating is called momentum. In order to stop the momentum created by your vehicle you usually need to decrease speed over a period of time. When an accident occurs, the force of the crash stops the vehicle instantly, changing the momentum. The goal of an airbag is to help stop the occupant inside the vehicle and prevent as many injuries as possible in this process.
An airbag is made up of several different components. The bag itself is made of a thin nylon fabric. This is folded precisely to allow the bag to deploy within milliseconds of a crash. There are sensors located around your vehicle that will receive information from an accelerometer. This information is sent to the inflation system to tell it when to create the chemical reaction to deploy the air bag. Once the electrical circuit has been turned on by the sensor, small amounts of sodium azide and potassium nitrate are released. When mixed they form a nitrogen gas. The blast of the nitrogen gas inflates the airbag which deploys from storage at up to 200 miles per hour! Once fully inflated, there are small holes in the bag that allow the gas to escape and the bag to deflate. When an airbag deploys there is a powder that fills the air. It is made up of cornstarch or talcum powder. Manufacturers use this to help the airbag stay lubricated while in storage.
Because an airbag deploys with a lot of force, the driver of a vehicle must be 10 inches away from the steering wheel. This will allow the airbag to inflate and provide maximum protection. If you are closer than the 10 inch recommendation, you are at risk of injury to your face and neck from the rapid inflation of the airbag. Another very important safety tip is that young children should not sit in the front seat. Research says that children under the age of 13 should not ride in the front seat. Because of their smaller size they are at a higher risk for injury when an airbag deploys. The statistics have made the age recommendation a huge debate with some people saying that children should not ride in the front seat until they are almost able to drive!
At Precision Collision Auto Body we understand the importance of convenient and quality service. If you have been in an accident and need a tow, give us a call at (320) 685-5310 and we will help get you back on the road. We offer free estimates and work with all insurances, and self-paying customers. Click here to schedule your estimate.