How Airbags Work to Protect You in an Accident

While we try our very best to avoid accidents when on the roadways, car accidents are an unfortunate reality. When they do happen, though, you will be glad to have working airbags to protect you. They are designed to provide cushioning and resistance so drivers and passengers don’t get severely injured in the event of a collision.

The main airbag most people are familiar with is the one located in the steering wheel. However, there are many other strategically-placed airbags throughout the vehicle to provide well-rounded protection in case of crash. Here’s how airbags protect you.

History of Airbags

The first incidence of airbag technology was introduced in 1919 as a patent for military aircraft. Airbags for automobiles did not come out till 1953. Two engineers developed a rudimentary technology using a compressed air framework. But compressed air had limitations, as it couldn’t inflate quickly enough after an impact to provide adequate protection.

Then, in 1967, technology had advanced to the point where airbags could deploy in under 60 milliseconds. With more accidents happening in the 1960s simply due to more cars on the road, the technology was refined and became a standard safety feature in most vehicles as the late 20th century approached.

Airbags: How They Work

Airbags also go by the term “Supplementary Resistance System (SRS)” and they are hidden within small plastic flaps in certain areas of your car. These areas typically include the steering wheel, dashboard, seats and ceiling. They all connect to an airbag control unit that controls multiple sensors around your vehicle. When a moderate or severe collision is detected by these sensors, the airbags are triggered to inflate in less than a second. Then, just as quickly as they inflate, they deflate.

Airbag Effectiveness

Airbags are very effective at reducing the rate of injury and death in motor vehicle collisions, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). As of 2017, airbags have saved more than 50,000 lives. Front airbags can reduce fatalities both drivers and front seat passengers by 29 percent to 32 percent. Airbags’ effectiveness is greatly improved when they protect multiple areas of the body, i.e., combination head and torso airbags.


Types of Airbags

1.     Front Airbags

These protect the head, torso, and neck in the event of a head-on collision. They are located in the steering wheel on the driver’s side and in the dashboard on the front passenger side.

2.     Side Airbags

First, you have the torso airbag, which deploys from the sides of the seats, and then you have the curtain airbags that are released from the ceiling so as to provide cushioning for your head. This type protects people in the front and in the rear.

3.     Knee Airbags

Passengers can suffer serious injuries when their knees hit the hard surfaces of the interior in a crash. Knee airbags will protect passengers from broken bones and shattered kneecaps on impact.

4.     Rear Seat Airbags

These are located in the back of the front seats to protect passengers in the rear from head or body impacts against the seats. These won’t deploy with quite as much force as other airbags, and as a result, they will pose minimal risk of injury to children.

5.     Center Airbags

These are a newer safety feature found in luxury models, situated in the middle of the front seats. They provide protection for the driver and passenger so they don’t hit one another during a crash.

6.     Inflatable Seat Belts

These are an optional safety feature offer in many newer models. They will puff up in a crash so as to distribute the force of the impact across the torso.

When the “Service Airbag Light” Turns On

If you see that the airbag light comes on, take your car to a trusted mechanic immediately. If you notice that the airbag light turns on when starting the car and then switches off right away, this is normal, as the system is telling you it’s working. There could be a functional issue with the airbags if that light doesn’t switch off though.

These lights could mean the following:

  • Backup battery failure
  • Broken sensors
  • Damaged springboard
  • Faulty electrical system
  • Water damage

Don’t ignore your airbag light. It’s important to get potential issues looked at and rectified before it’s too late.

Contact Hance’s Uptown Collision Center

In the unfortunate event you got into an accident and require collision repair for your vehicle, we welcome you to schedule an appointment online or give us a ring at 214-214-4730 or Plano at 214-225-5966.




Schedule an Estimate or Repair

    Our Services

    Read Recent Posts

    Explore More