Cars now have more airbags than ever! Some cars even have up to 10 airbags. My Dad used to fondly refer to my Mom as “The Seat Belt” because she’d throw her arm across your chest whenever she had to slam on the brakes. Now he calls her “The Airbag.” Sweet of him to create nicknames for her that evolve right along with vehicle safety features. So, cars of today are safer than ever. And the latest airbags are a big part of this.
In front crashes, airbags reduce driver fatalities by 29%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition to front air bags, most of the newer models also feature side torso airbags and side curtain airbags (hitting one’s head against the door’s window is a thing of the past). Some vehicles even have rear-seat airbags for those pesky kids and relatives.
And these airbag technologies are ever-evolving. Here are some airbag innovations that are starting to make their way into our newer vehicles.
• Knee Airbags – This small airbag is designed to minimize injuries to the lower limbs as they make contact with the dashboard. There are located in the footwell, under the steering wheel on the driver side, and under the glove box on the passenger side (Why do they call it a glove box? Does anyone really store gloves in there?)
• Front Center Airbag – Introduced in 2013, this airbag deploys from the right side of the driver seat and positions itself between the front row seats near the center of the vehicle. It is designed to provide restraint during passenger-side crashes when the driver is alone. It also acts as an energy-absorbing cushion between driver and front passenger in both driver and passenger side crashes. It also helps to minimize injuries in rollover accidents.
• Inflatable Seatbelts – Introduced in 2011, these are kind of a cross between an airbag and a seat belt. They are designed to reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers (typically children and the elderly).
Frontal airbags have been a federal requirement since 1999. And, while airbags reduce serious injuries, they may also cause injuries. Since they deploy in milliseconds, it’s like getting hit in the face with a boxing glove, since it’s a controlled explosion. That is why newer airbags don’t come out at such a high pressure as earlier ones. Mine is set to come out at 300 p.s.i., which would surely knock me out since I also have short legs and am entirely too close to the steering wheel. Newer airbags come out at a lower pressure and some are flexible-venting that uses the driver’s forward momentum to push out the gas from the inflated bag, making for a less harsh impact. For the most part, the injury issues stem from frontal airbags.
I’m looking forward to seeing what is available at the dealership when I’m shopping next month for a new car.
Until next week…
Daun Thompson
Writer / Comedienne / Artist
The Latest Airbags – Comedy Defensive Driving