An airbag is a vehicle safety device, consisting of a flexible fabric envelope or cushion designed to inflate rapidly during a crash. Since 1998, all new cars sold in the United States have been required to have airbags on both driver and passenger sides. And now, statistics show that airbags reduce the risk of dying in a direct frontal crash by about 30 percent. Thus, it makes us wonder how the balloon-like device works to protect us in the accident. Now, I would like to explain it to you.
The airbag is actually known as a supplementary restraint system (SRS), suggesting that it is designed to help the seat belts protect you rather than replace them. It is made up of a bag, sensor and an inflator. The bag is made of a thin, nylon fabric, which is folded into the steering wheel or dashboard or even the seat or door, while the sensor is the device that tells the bag to unfold itself — inflate, with the inflator’s help to release nitrogen gas.
The airbag starts to work when the car hits something with its speed decelerating rapidly. The accelerometer, an electronic chip that measures acceleration or force, can detect the speed change. And if the deceleration is great enough, the accelerometer will trigger the airbag circuit, which would pass an electric current through a heating element and ignite a chemical explosive, generating a massive amount of gas that floods into the bag to blow the plastic cover off the steering wheel and inflate in front of the driver.
However, one thing deserves to know is that the airbag is only effective when used with a lap/shoulder seat belt. Besides, the research shows that an airbag can even hurt those who are too close to it. Therefore, you should remember to place yourself 10 inches from your driver airbag, measuring this distance from the center of the steering wheel to your breastbone.
As for children, the airbag is very dangerous and you should never put your kid in the front seat with an airbag, because the force generated when the airbag is inflating can seriously injure the child or even kill him or her. Therefore, when you start a road trip with your kids, you should not forget to put them in a properly installed, age-appropriate car seat in the rear seat and buckle them up.