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Car and Truck Airbags

In addition to safety belts, airbags are a critical addition to the safety mechanisms included in a vehicle. This type of safety bag offers lightning-fast protection for front seat passengers in the event of a vehicle crash. While the exact timing largely depends on the type of airbag, most deploy in vehicles within 50/1000th of a second, which is faster than the blink of a human eye.

What exactly is an airbag, and how does it work?

Airbags are a vehicular safety device that safely restrains the vehicles driver and front-seat passenger to the seat during an accident. This helps to prevent serious injuries that could potentially happen from hitting the windshield or steering wheel, for example. The bag is designed to rapidly inflate in the event of a moderate to severe impact to the vehicle. They deflate immediately after they have absorbed the energy of the crash, which is usually before an occupant even realizes they have been deployed. This safety feature uses a combination of sensors and chemical technologies to successfully deploy only when they are needed.

In the event of a severe enough crash, sensors in the vehicle trigger and send electrical signals to an ignitor in the bag assembly. The ignitor releases heat, chemically triggering the breakdown of sodium azide that is stored inside the bags. The nearly instantaneous conversion of the sodium azide into harmless sodium and nitrogen gases causes rapid expansion, and the bag inflates.

Are airbags required by law?

Although car manufacturers started early adoption of airbags, from the 1980s into the 1990s, they did not become mandatory in the United States until 1996. Car manufacturers have continued to improve the safety and efficacy of the bag ever since.

What does the abbreviation SRS mean?

The acronym SRS stands for supplemental restraint system. Given that the first line of defense in any vehicle is the seatbelt, airbags, which deploy as a backup restraint, pinning the driver and passenger safely to their seats during an accident, are a secondary, or supplemental, system. Airbags help protect the vehicles driver and passengers upper torsos and heads, shielding them from being struck by objects in front of them, such as the windshield or, in the case of the driver, the steering wheel. Because these bags work best when used in conjunction with seatbelts, the term supplemental restraint system is used.

Who invented the airbag?

Bags used for protection in automobiles trace their roots back to 1941. The technology was independently invented by both a German engineer, Walter Linderer, and American John W. Hetrick. Hetrick filed for a patent for his bags in 1951.