Airbags provide critical cushioning for human being during a crash. They"re normally hidden yet inflate instantly when a crash begins.Front airbags have been required in all new passenger vehicles because the 1999 version year.Side airbags aren"t particularly mandated, but almost all manufacturers include them as standard equipment in bespeak to accomplish federal side defense requirements.

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Both front and side airbags save lives.

Engineers save finding brand-new ways to use airbags.

Rear-window curtain airbags room designed to protect people in earlier seats in rear-end crashes.Far-side airbags save drivers and front-seat passengers from hitting each various other in a crash.Inflatable safety and security belts space aimed in ~ reducing rear-seat chest injuries.

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Knee airbags show little benefit

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A new study of crashes in i beg your pardon belted rear-seat passenger were killed or seriously injured suggests much better restraint systems are needed.

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How front and also side airbags work

Airbags are inflatable cushions constructed into a automobile that defend occupants from hitting the car interior or objects exterior the auto (for example, other vehicles or trees) during a collision.

The instant a crash begins, sensors begin to measure affect severity. If the crash is major enough, the sensors signal inflators to to fill the bags with gas in a fraction of a second.

Airbags don"t generally require maintenance uneven they deploy in a crash. In that case, they need to be changed at a repair shop that uses original tools manufacturer (OEM) replacement components to ensure that the new airbag is no counterfeit. Counterfeit airbags might fail to deploy or release steel shrapnel during deployment.

Front airbags

Since the 1999 design year, the federal government has required automakers to install driver and passenger airbags for frontal affect protection in every cars, irradiate trucks and also vans.

Front airbags space designed come inflate in middle to major frontal crashes to avoid a person"s head and also chest indigenous contacting tough structures in the vehicle.

They offer the most protection when residents are wearing safety belts and also sitting effectively in the seat yet are design to provide protection for every occupants.

Newer airbags have actually a safety belt sensor and use an algorithm to decision whether come deploy the bag in a provided crash, depending upon whether civilization are using security belts.

Typically, a prior airbag will deploy for unbelted inhabitants when the crash is the identical of an affect into a rigid wall at 10-12 mph. Many airbags will deploy in ~ a greater threshold — around 16 mph — for belted occupants since the belts alone are likely to provide adequate defense up to these moderate speeds.

Front airbags might deploy to aid protect residents in side effects if over there is sufficient forward movement throughout the crash.

The driver airbag is located in the steering wheel. The passenger airbag is situated in the dashboard.

Front twin airbag system
Knee airbag (BMW)

Some manufacturers administer supplemental knee airbags, mounted lower. Knee airbags are intended come distribute impact forces to minimize leg injuries. They may also aid reduce forces on an occupant"s chest and abdomen by managing movement that the occupant"s reduced body.

Side airbags

Head- and chest-protecting side airbags are designed to inflate in next crashes to prevent people"s heads and also chests native contacting intruding components of automobile side structure, a striking vehicle or an object such as a tree or pole. Side airbags cushion and also spread the load of effects to protect against any component of the human body from maintain concentrated influence forces.

A head-protecting next airbag is particularly important due to the fact that it might be the only thing in between the occupant"s head and the highlight vehicle, since home window glass deserve to shatter in a crash.

Because that the small space in between an occupant and the next of the vehicle, next airbags have to deploy very quickly, commonly within the very first 10-20 millisecond of a side crash. Deployment thresholds have the right to be together low together 8 mph for narrow object crashes (e.g., trees and also poles) and also 18 mph for the much more widely dispersed side effects (vehicle-to-vehicle crashes). Side airbags additionally deploy in certain types of frontal crashes.

A federal regulation top top side-impact protection requires a particular level that head and also torso security for every occupants. While it doesn"t particularly mandate side airbags, the forced protection is typically completed with them. Together of the 2014 model year, virtually all new passenger vehicles should comply through this regulation. Together a result, the vast bulk of passenger vehicles come with side airbags as conventional equipment.

A head-protecting curtain airbag is often the only barrier between the dummy"s head and the highlight vehicle.

Different varieties of side airbag systems

A mix airbag, deploying native the seatback, offers protection for the head and torso.
A head-protecting curtain airbag, i beg your pardon deploys from the roof rail, and also a seat-mounted torso-protecting airbag
A head-protecting curtain airbag and also seat-mounted torso and also pelvis-protecting airbag
A head-protecting curtain airbag deploying from the door and seat-mounted torso and also pelvis-protecting airbag

Rollover deployment of next airbags

Side curtain airbags deserve to be designed come deploy in a rollover crash. Sensors that measure a vehicle"s sideways movement and tilting can detect if a rollover is around to occur, triggering deployment. This airbags typically inflate within the very first 10-20 millisecond of a rollover crash and can stay inflated longer than consistent side curtain airbags (10 or more seconds) to protect during multiple-roll crashes. They generally cover the window opening and inflate an ext stiffly to avoid ejection of the occupant.

The federal government doesn"t specifically require side curtain airbags v this capability, however automakers have been utilizing them to accomplish a necessity that all 2018 or more recent vehicles avoid occupant ejection through side windows.

A next curtain airbag supplied to meet the federal safety and security standard to protect against occupant ejection continues to be inflated for more than 10 seconds, extending multiple rolls of the vehicle, and keeps occupants consisted of inside.

Lives saved by airbags

NHTSA approximates that together of 2017, 50,457 lives have actually been conserved by frontal airbags (National center for Statistics and Analysis, 2020).

In frontal crashes, front airbags reduce driver fatalities by 29 percent and also fatalities of front-seat passengers age 13 and older through 32 percent (Kahane, 2015). NHTSA approximates that the mix of an airbag to add a lap and shoulder belt reduce the threat of fatality in frontal crashes by 61 percent, compared with a 50 percent reduction because that belts alone and a 34 percent reduction because that airbags alone.

NHTSA approximates that together of 2012, 2,252 lives have been conserved by side airbags (Kahane, 2015).

Side airbags v head protection reduce a car driver"s danger of death in driver-side crashes through 37 percent and also an SUV driver"s threat by 52 percent (McCartt & Kyrychenko, 2007).

A study of crashes in Australia discovered that side airbags v head and torso protection alleviate a vehicle driver"s danger of fatality or injury in driver-side crashes by 41 percent (D"Elia et al., 2013). Comparable trends were uncovered in a NHTSA study focusing on the fatality risk to drivers and right-front-seat passenger vehicles involved in nearside crashes. Curtain airbags and also torso airbags together minimize the threat of death by 31 percent, and combination head/torso airbags mitigate the threat by 25 percent (Kahane, 2014). The fatality reduction was reduced in vehicles equipped just with a curtain airbag (16 percent) or only with a torso airbag (8 percent).

The an important role played by head-protecting next airbags is depicted by the outcomes of side crash tests. Because the program began in 2003, every the vehicles earning an excellent ratings have actually been equipped through side airbags that safeguard the head. However, airbags alone aren"t enough. Vehicles likewise need side frameworks that resist major intrusion right into the occupant compartment.

Airbag injuries

Occasionally, the energy required to quickly inflate airbags can reason injury to world sitting or thrown as well close come the airbag prior to it deploys. This to be a serious problem with the an initial generations the frontal airbags, which deployed with higher force.

NHTSA estimates that throughout 1990-2008, much more than 290 deaths were caused by frontal airbag inflation in low-speed crashes (National facility for Statistics and Analysis, 2017). Practically 90 percent the the deaths occurred in vehicles manufactured prior to 1998, and much more than 80 percent of world killed to be unbelted or improperly restrained. Many of the deaths were passengers, and an ext than 90 percent of those were children and infants, most of whom were unbelted or in rear-facing child safety seats that inserted their top close come the deploying airbag. Short and elderly drivers, who often tend to sit close come the steering wheel, also were vulnerable to inflation injuries native frontal airbags.

Today, many thanks to transforms in federal government requirements, serious injuries from appropriately functioning airbags room rare.

The alters came in two phases. In the first, federal rules were modified to encourage automakers to alleviate the power in prior airbags. Depowering began with 1998 models. Later, NHTSA authorize a certified-advanced airbag rule that required much more sophisticated airbags in every passenger vehicles by the 2007 model year.

Advanced airbags change deployment patterns if load sensors recognize a small driver or front-seat passenger or a child safety and security seat. Manufacturers have to pass a suite of tests making use of different-size dummies, belted and also unbelted, in a range of crash test speeds and configurations.

Side airbags additionally can deploy v enough power to cause injury, return they typically are smaller and also deploy through less energy than frontal airbags. Injuries from call with next airbag inflations in crashes have been recorded (Kahane, 2015), but there is no indication the such injuries are common. A ar study of kids in next crashes discovered no increased risk of injury to kids age 15 and younger associated with next airbag deployment (Arbogast & Kallan, 2007).

Faulty airbags likewise can damaged people. The government concerns recalls for vehicles v faulty airbag solution that an outcome in increased risk the injury in a crash. Reasons can encompass failure come deploy, incorrect time or power of deployments, and also defective parts. Recalled airbags need to be changed to ensure that inhabitants receive the optimal level of security in a crash.

Consumers can uncover information top top recalls affecting their vehicles in the NHTSA remind database. The database additionally has info on business centers that are authorized to repair recalled vehicles free of charge.

The Takata airbag recall, which began in 2015, is the largest recall in U.S. History, with an approximated 70 million vehicles to it is in recalled by 2019. The difficulty that triggered the recall has actually been tied to 15 confirmed deaths in the U.S. And much more than 250 report injuries.

What can occupants carry out to stop injuries native airbags?

Drivers and front-seat passengers have to sit in the center of the seat upright against the seatback through feet top top the floor.Arms and also legs should never be resting versus an airbag because the pressures of a deploying airbag and the warm gases exhausted by the airbag may cause injury.Avoid aftermarket dash or seat covers, which have the right to block or redirect a deploying airbag.Young children should sit in the behind seat. If a kid does must ride in the prior seat, the seat have to be as far ago as feasible and the child should be securely buckled in a lap/shoulder belt and sitting against the seatback.Children shouldn"t lean against the door area where the next airbag is stored due to the fact that the early deployment pressure may it is in harmful. V or without an airbag, kids who lean versus doors or lie down with their heads close to the doors or political parties of vehicles room at greater risk that injury in the event of a side impact.For females in the late stages that pregnancy, a mix of correctly positioned security belts and airbags supplies the best protection. Like various other drivers, pregnant drivers should ensure their abdomens room at least 10 inches from the steering wheel. The lap belt have to be positioned high top top the thighs (ideally ~ above pelvic bones), below the soft part of the abdomen.

As an innovation advances, manufacturers are finding new ways to integrate airbags into vehicles.

Inflatable chair belts

In 2011 Ford rolled the end an inflatable seat belt aimed in ~ reducing rear-seat injuries. The inflatable seat belt is intended to improve protection for adults and also for children using booster seats or seat belts alone. In a crash, the shoulder belt inflates, distributing crash forces throughout the torso and also chest.

The inflatable belts room currently obtainable as optional tools in the outboard second-row seating positions of numerous Ford and also Lincoln vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class comes with standard blow up belts.

Ford blow up seat belt (Ford motor Company)

Far-side airbag

Also recognized as the front-center airbag, the far-side airbag is designed to avoid front passenger from colliding with each other during side-impact crashes and to preserve occupant position in far-side or rollover crashes. General Motors was the an initial to present the front-center airbag in 2013.

Toyota has arisen a comparable concept aimed in ~ rear-seat passenger security that deploys native the behind row"s center console.

In 2020, EuroNCAP introduced a new side crash check to encourage far-side airbags. A far-side airbag is currently easily accessible on the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Genesis G80 and Genesis GV80. 

GM far-side airbag (GM push release)

Panoramic sunroof airbag

In 2017, Hyundai Mobis, one automotive supplier, introduced the very first panoramic roof curtain airbag. That is intended to prevent ejection of inhabitants through the sunroof throughout rollovers.

NHTSA has identified 260 occupants ejected v sunroofs native 2000-2015 and also the trouble is intended to prosper as panoramic sunroofs become an ext popular.

Many style challenges delayed the implementation of these type of airbags in vehicles. The airbag must properly deploy v the sunroof open or closed and also be save in the headliner there is no interfering v headroom or visibility.

Hyundai Mobis sunroof airbag (Hyundai press release)

Seat cushion airbag

Seat cushion airbags space designed to reduce forces on an occupant"s chest and also abdomen by regulating movement that the occupant"s body. Currently, the Toyota Yaris come equipped through a seat cushion airbag.

Seat cushion airbag (Toyota push site)

Rear chair airbag

Rear chair airbags are being developed to provide head defense for behind passengers. Behind seat airbags are situated in the ago of the front seat and deploy with less pressure than classic airbags. Lock are only partially inflated, uneven normal, full-powered airbags, so even if the airbags contact objects or son seats, castle deflect instead of striking them. Mercedes-Benz is to plan to introduce this optional airbag ~ above the next generation the S-Class.

Rear chair airbag (Daimler)

Flexible seating airbag systems

Future vehicles v flexible seating options (reclining seats, campfire configurations, etc.) will need innovative airbag solution for protection. Airbag service providers are arising seat-mounted airbag solution that carry out cocoonlike security for passengers. Two instances are Autoliv’s Life cell airbag and Joyson’s Embrace.

Future airbag principle (Autoliv)

Precrash external side airbag system

The external side airbag, developed by ZF, is design to minimize crash pressures on a car during side crashes. This airbag offers precrash sensors come detect an imminent side affect and deploys a large external airbag native under the side sill of the car to cover the driver and also rear passenger doors. When inflated, that is roughly the dimension of a life raft. There are right now no manufacturing vehicles through this technology. 

External next airbag (ZF)

External hood airbag

Volvo occurred the first hood airbag designed for pedestrian protection. As soon as a collision with a pedestrian is detected, an outside airbag deploys native under the hood and also covers the hard parts of the windshield and also the A-pillar, locations that pedestrians generally strike. The pedestrian hood airbag is conventional on the Volvo V40, accessible only in Europe, beginning with the 2013 version year.

Volvo hood airbag (Volvo push site)

Motorcycle airbag

A frontal airbag is offered as an alternative on 2006 and later models of Honda"s yellow Wing touring motorcycle. Honda"s airbag is designed come deploy in serious frontal impacts and also absorb several of the forward energy of the driver. No studies have actually been conducted on the real-world effectiveness of motorcycle airbags.

Honda gold Wing touring motorcycle with frontal airbag (Honda media)

Motorcyclist vest airbag

Wearable crash-activated airbag vests are another option for motorcyclists. The vests, available from number of companies, including AlpineStars technology Air, HitAir, and Helite, room designed to protect the rider"s neck, torso, and also spine throughout a crash.

During common riding, a tether connect the vest to the motorcycle. During a crash event, when the rider and also the bike begin to separate, the tether is pulled, activating a CO2 cartridge come inflate the vest within milliseconds. This canister is replaceable, definition the coat or vest is reusable.

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Motorcycle airbag vest (Helite website)
Helite vest airbag (Helite website)

Bicycle helmet airbag

A bicycle helmet airbag has been emerged in Sweden by Hovding. The airbag because that bicyclists is intended to be used rather of a classic helmet. The is designed to deploy out of a collar worn roughly the neck when sensors finding abnormal activity of the cyclist describe a crash. The airbag deploys in one-tenth that a second.