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Media post: A Discussion About Airbags

Car safety enthusiasts usually caution that airbags are to be used at the same time as seat belts. Seat belts are still needed because airbags used to work only in front-end collisions occurring at more than ten miles per hour. Only seat belts could assist in side accidents and swipes (although side-mounted airbags are common these days), rear-end collisions and secondary impacts. Although more technological features are emerging, airbags still are only effective when used with a seat belt.  Read on for more information about how airbags evolved, and how they work!

A Quick Low-Down on Airbag History

When vehicle makers began putting seatbelt contraptions in vehicles in the 1950s, people were concerned about getting “trapped” in their vehicles when accidents happened. Despite early beliefs, however, a number of states have adopted seatbelt laws today, to make it so that at least people under age eighteen need to wear them. This is what this SRT dealer in City of Industry, CA told us when we called to see what they knew about seatbelt laws.

Around the same decade that seatbelts came around, airbag device patent applications did. As early as the early 1950s, John Hedrick from the U.S and Walter Linderer from Germany filled out applications for patents. Hedrick obtained a patent—U.S Patent #2,649.311–for his “safety cushion assembly for automotive vehicles,” while Linderer’s German patent #896312 was for a compressed air system that was released by either bumper contact or the driver. In 1968,  Allen Breed invented a “sensor and safety system.” This was the first electron mechanical automotive airbag unit on the planet, and the true beginning of your modern-day airbag.

In 1971 Ford built an airbag fleet just to experiment. A 1970s Chevrolet automobile had airbags in cars sold only for U.S government usage. A couple decades or so later airbags—and most certainly airbags for the front passenger and driver–became mandatory in each passenger vehicle. Most all controversy of the airbag went away as time passed.

How Airbags Work

Like seat belts, the concept of an airbag–an inflated pillow that serves as protection in an accident–was controversial. An airbag’s goal is simply to slow down the passenger’s forward motion down during an accident.  The process starts with signals from motion sensors.  When one of the sensors detects a big collision-level force, the car’s airbag inflation system receives an electrical pulse from it. Typically, that ignites a charge that creates a warm blast of nitrogen gas to drive the airbag out from its storage site.

It didn’t take long to learn that an airbag’s force would hurt those who are too close to it, particularly children. Experts agree that children aged twelve and under should ride buckled up in a correctly installed, age-appropriate car seat in the back seat . There are ways to deactivate airbags, and we’ll get to that right now. You cannot usually deactivate your airbag without installing a on-off switch. However, if an on-off switch is not yet available from the vehicle manufacturer for your car, the U.S government can authorize airbag deactivation on a case-by-case basis in various situations.

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