How safe are the airbags in your car?
Airbags are bags designed to inflate and deflate rapidly during a collision. Their purpose is to provide cushioning for passengers during a crash. They are normally hidden from view and only deployed upon crashing.
Newer vehicles all have frontal airbags installed, while some cars like the Mitsubishi ASX 4WD have side airbags. There’s no doubt that airbags save lives, but how safe are they?
How do airbags work?
When a crash occurs, sensors will instantly measure the severity of the impact. If the collision is severe, the sensors signal inflators to fill the bags with gas. All this can happen in a fraction of a second, as the speed of a deploying airbag can reach up to 322 kilometers per hour.
Airbags work best when passengers are sitting in the center of the seat upright with feet on the floor. Passengers should also not rest their arms and legs against an airbag as the forces of a deploying airbag may cause injury. A driver should sit with their chest 10 inches away from the steering wheel.
How effective are airbags?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US, frontal airbags have saved 44,869 lives as of 2015. They reduce driver fatalities by 29 percent in frontal crashes. Meanwhile, side airbags have saved 2,252 lives as of 2012.
As safe as it can be, airbags can cause injury or even death if misused. There are 290 airbag-induced deaths since 1990. However, at the same time airbags have saved more than 27,000 lives.
Can there be too many airbags?
Airbags are proven to save lives, so having more of them is good, right?
Technically, there’s no limit to the number of airbags you can place in a vehicle, but that would cost a lot of money. Replacing a deployed airbag can also cost from 500 USD to several thousand USD.
The vehicle’s weight will also increase, which results in reduced fuel mileage. A single airbag doesn’t weigh much, but if you consider the materials, the propellant chemicals like sodium azide, the sensors, and the wiring, having multiple airbags can be heavy.
Many people still debate the topic of the cost-effectiveness of airbags. Few studies have calculated the total cost of producing and installing airbags, then compared it with a numeric figure representing the economic value of deaths and injuries. However, when you can save lives with airbags, that number seems irrelevant.
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