Modern vehicles like cars enable people to travel from one place to another conveniently and in less time. But riding a car also carries a risk to passengers’ lives in the event of it colliding with another vehicle or getting involved in some other kind of accident.
Various safety equipment has been designed for cars in terms of seat belts, airlock brakes, traction control, and adjustable headrests to reduce such risks and enhance riders’ safety. Their use helps to lessen the physical harm suffered by the riders due to the occurrence of a collision or any other kind of accident taking place. The airbag is one another equipment that has been designed with a purpose to ensure the safety of passengers from collision or any other type of driving-related accident.
History of Airbags
Airbags provide a cushioning effect to the head and neck when they move forward due to the impact of a collision. The presence of the airbag saves the head from touching the car’s dashboard forcefully. It is also helpful in lessening incidents of injury caused to the neck by preventing jolting when the head gets repelled in the forward direction and then moves in the backward direction after touching a hard or quick-moving surface.
You may be curious to know how a bag filled with gas that is placed inside your vehicle’s dashboard protects your head and neck in the event of a collision. A small sized explosive charge and apt timing make it work. Before we throw more light on the airbag using, we would like to explain why collisions bring injuries and what role is performed by momentum in such situations.
Understanding Energy in Collision
Energy has a role to play in every action, and this also applies to the driving of automobiles. Like most things in this world controlled by the laws of physics, energy is also controlled by these laws. To be more specific, the laws of motion control the energy related to a vehicle in motion. To better understand the reason behind its extreme significance, things need to be looked at from the perspective of mass and velocity.
Every object in motion has a mass, which is the amount of matter contained in an object. The mass has a close relation with the amount of weight of an object. An object in motion also possesses velocity, which is a speed towards a particular direction. When an object possesses mass as well as velocity, it is also filled with kinetic energy—the higher mass and velocity of an object corresponding to the higher kinetic energy possessed by it.
Kinetic energy does not pose a problem until the object ceases movement due to one of these two reasons. The first one is you desire to stop the object, and the second one is that it has undergone a collision with another object. In both cases, the generated kinetic energy requires going somewhere, but it does not just vanish. So if you are moving faster, it becomes more difficult for you to stop, and the vehicle experiences more damage. The majority of cars nowadays are designed to absorb most of the kinetic energy when a collision occurs.
Though the design of cars lessens the danger to some extent, it does not take into consideration the fact that the driver and riders are also objects. They possess their own mass, and when a vehicle in motion is stopping, they also have got a velocity of their own. When airbags were not there, seat belts were the only equipment that could stop the driver and passengers from forcible movement in the forward direction.
Though seat belts undoubtedly have played a role in saving lives, they have a limitation. They fail to provide protection to the head and neck. The seat belt is effective in stopping the movement of a rider’s torso in the forward direction and drags him back into the seat. In this motion, the head and neck are propelled forward and return back speedily, which oftentimes causes damage to the neck joints and muscles.
Furthermore, the speed at which this takes place is dependent on the traveling speed of the vehicle. In instances where vehicles are moving faster, the motion in the forward direction can make the head strike against the dashboard of the car. The airbag acts as a cushion for the head and neck and prevents their full force collision with the dashboard. The unique way of working of airbags is the only reason which makes it possible to stop the collision of the head and neck with the dashboard.
How Do Airbags Work?
When the vehicle’s speed starts decreasing due to the accident, at that very moment, airbags start working with the inflation of gas. When the person’s head touches the airbag, at that same time, it starts deflating the gas. Airbags are designed to deflate with a certain purpose. If an airbag doesn’t deflate, it wouldn’t remedy the head and neck’s problem moving suddenly in the backward direction because the head will bounce off after touching it.
Inflation and deflation of airbags occur due to a variety of sensors in them and the occurrence of a small explosion. The airbag is equipped with an accelerometer that recognizes changes taking place in the speed. In case the accelerometer notices deceleration that lies beyond the predefined speed and exceeds the usual braking speeds, it activates the circuit in the airbag.
The airbag circuit makes an electrical current move through the heating element, which leads to the ignition of a chemical explosive. This results in the generation of nitrogen or argon gas (harmless in nature), which moves fast in a nylon bag, causing it to inflate. The bag is placed in a space lying behind the steering wheel or on the dashboard facing the passenger side. When the person’s head touches the bag, it starts deflating because of the gas moving out from the small holes lying at its edges. When the vehicle completely halts, the airbag should become free of all the gas.
Effectiveness Since The Beginning
Airbags cannot be used alone; they have to be utilized in conjunction with seatbelts. According to a finding, using airbags correctly has led to a 24% decrease in the deaths of people involved in head-on vehicle collisions. Improvements that will be undertaken in the airbag design and general vehicle safety in the future should reduce the fatalities in such collisions even further.
But it would help if you never ignored the aspect of using airbags carefully as there are some risks involved with their use. The violent explosion that is responsible for the functioning of an airbag can cause injury to the eye and result in the loss of hearing. Their use can also threaten the safety of small children.
Though the latest airbags inflate with smaller force compared to the airbags of the past, it is still advised to avoid putting the rear-facing child seats on the front seats of cars where an active airbag is placed. You can find solace in the fact that accidental deaths taking place due to the use of airbags have decreased because of the changes made in their design and enhanced education given to drivers regarding their use.
Increased understanding of airbags working helps you understand why it is standard practice to place them in many latest designed vehicles. You can also understand why they do not get activated every time you apply brakes or halt at traffic lights. Such equipment is acceptable proof of how the state of the art technologies in the vehicle manufacturing sector pushes passenger safety one step ahead. This thing is reassuring, but you should be careful, too, to enjoy a safe and pleasant driving experience at all times.