Understanding Air Bags

By Jeanelle D. Horcasitas

September 2, 2015 5 min read

Before you even think about pressing your foot on the gas pedal, you always remember to buckle up. Proper seat belt safety is consistently advised for all drivers when it comes to protecting themselves and other passengers from the impact of an accident. But what about air bags? Are they effective in protecting you, as well? Although we acknowledge the presence of air bags in our cars, what do we know about them?

The primary reason we forget about the air bags in our cars is that they're hidden: out of sight, out of mind. Typically, the air bags we know about are the ones located on the driver's side at the center of the steering wheel and on the passenger's side inside of the dashboard. However, according to Takata.com, air bags can be found almost everywhere in your car. For example, side air bags within the seat, curtain air bags above the side windows, and even knee air bags at the front of the driver and passenger seats. Who knew your car was holding so much protection?

Although some cars come fully loaded with air bags that offer extra safety, not everyone is convinced. In fact, there have been instances where air bags actually caused more harm than good in accidents. Unfortunately, air bags have been known to cause injury, primarily because of the position the person is in when the air bags deploy. Some of the possible injuries include: bruising, whiplash, concussion and harm to the chest. However, there are ways to prevent some of these issues from happening.

According to CarsDirect.com, "safety advocates recommend against individuals under 12 riding in a front seat with airbags. Also, drivers are cautioned against placing rear-facing infant seats in the front seat with an airbag." Moreover, CarsDirect.com advises that adults sit 10 to 12 inches away from the steering wheel to alleviate some of the impact from the air bag if it is deployed; this goes for the passenger's distance to the dashboard, as well. However, wearing your seat belt at all times is the No. 1 preventive action you can take.

Even though air bags can cause a few bangs and bruises in an accident, they can also save your life. In a report by the United States Department of Transportation, statistics have shown that seat belts and air bags have significantly increased driver safety over the years. In the report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 28,000 lives have been saved by air bags in the United States. Therefore, air bags clearly have proved that despite some of the pushback they receive for potential harm, they are ultimately invaluable sources of support when it comes to protecting drivers and passengers from life-threatening accidents.

However, our world is constantly changing. As a result, the technology in our cars is getting more and more sophisticated, and this includes our air bags. In a review by Edmunds.com's Ronald Montoya, he reports some of the advances made in air bag technology. For example, the Chevrolet Sonic has 10 air bags located in the car. Wow, that is some serious protection! Additionally, Ford has developed the inflatable air bag seat belt. Wearing your seat belt and having air bags is already a plus -- but the two-in-one is an even bigger bonus. Finally, General Motors has created the flexible venting air bag, which deflates or "vents" a small amount when pressed by an individual's forward motion; this was developed in an effort to reduce the risk of injury.

Today cars have become so advanced that they can practically drive themselves (and some do). There are cameras installed in the front and back to help you park better. There is a warning sound that goes off when you are getting too close to a curb or another car. The car will even stop itself altogether if you're too preoccupied to see the cute little squirrel scampering across the road. We're still working on getting flying cars -- but I do not think it's too far from our grasp.

With the constant production of new technologies being integrated into our world and cars, who knows what the future of air bags will be? The main concern is safety. So remember to buckle up, and know that you're being doubly protected with the help of a few air bags ready to go if things get a little rocky.

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