Airbag Safety and Best Practices

In North America Airbags, aka Supplemental Restraint System (SRS), first started being installed in cars back in mid-1970’s and have been required by law since 1989.

We all understand the basics – in the event of a collision, the airbags (but perhaps not all of them) will deploy to help protect the occupants. Pretty simple in a nutshell. How they do that is very complicated as it uses accelerometers (G-Force sensors) placed throughout the vehicle and some very powerful onboard computers to send the signal out to inflate the individual airbags that are required depending on the type of impact detected.

What most people don’t realize is that an airbag deploys at over 300km/hr (200mph) and are fully inflated in 0.03 of a second, which is four times faster than the blink of an eye. The idea is that the occupant collides with an inflated airbag, and not one that is still inflating.

Which brings me to seating position. It is best practice is to ensure that your body is at least 20cm-25.5cm (8-10 inches) away from the airbag so that it has sufficient space to inflate before you collide with it. If your body is positioned closer, you could suffer some pretty severe injuries from the collision, like broken ribs or even a damaged heart.

What’s also important to think about is your hand position on the steering wheel. When an airbag deploys, it will most likely blow your hands off the wheel. Not always, but usually it will. Many drivers love to hold the wheel with just one hand at the 12 o’clock position.

Remember the speed at which airbags deploy? You will punch yourself in the face at over 300km/hr! I call that a big ouch and is the cause of severe facial trauma often seen in Emergency Rooms. For those of you who hold the wheel at six o’clock…think about where you will punch yourself at 300km/hr! I don’t care what sex you are, that’s a very sensitive area! It’s also important to ensure that no part of your hands are resting on the airbag or across the seams from where it deploys.

Ideally, you should always keep both hands on the wheel for maximum control of the vehicle and hold the wheel at the 9 & 3 positions. Some people still hold the wheel at 10 & 2 and many driving schools teach this, but 9 & 3 offers much more control and a wider range of steering is available (like making very tight turns) before having to adjust your hands.

Some driving schools are starting to encourage holding the wheel at the 8 & 4 positions so that the airbag blows your hands downward. Please do NOT do this. This offers very little control of the vehicle. When someone insists on using this technique at the driving school that I work with the most (the ILR Car Control School), the driver loses control of their car…every…single…time.

It’s also critically important that you NEVER put your feet up on the dashboard. The injuries are nothing short of horrific (I may do a separate post on this alone). Injuries from airbags are no joke and I really didn’t want to include them in this post. You can easily look up some images of airbag injuries online but be warned…they are very graphic.

Just remember to keep your hands at 9 & 3, stay back at least 20cm (8in), keep your feet on the floor and enjoy the drive.

Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress and MagTheme