When you want to buy a family car, you guide yourself perhaps, depending on the ratings obtained in safety tests, to determine if that vehicle protects your family properly.
In fact, a side collision presents the greatest risk of injury to occupants. This is because the “impact area” – the space between the outer edges of the vehicle and the passenger compartment – is much narrower than the front or rear of the vehicle. In response, most car manufacturers have equipped cars with side airbags designed to protect passengers’ heads and chest.
Side airbags can protect the head, chest, or both, depending on their design.
Head protecting airbags, use a curtain or tubular design. Volvo was the first to offer curtain airbag for head protection in 1999 for the S80 model. They protect occupants’ heads just high enough so that during impact, their heads hit the window. Moreover, they only protect passengers sitting in the side seats, the open areas adjacent airbags.
Children are not protected
Vehicles with airbags for head protection always protect front seat occupants at least, but they do not always cover the second or third row of seats.
Even if a head curtain airbag cover the rear seats, where children are in most cases, does not mean that they are safe, because the stature is too small to benefit from the airbags protection.
Some manufacturers use what is called a combination of airbags to protect both head and chest, using a single room that opens from the side door or seat. Ford uses this type of airbags on most of its cars, although those of head protection curtain it uses for SUVs.
Airbags for chest protection
To protect the chest and the ribs, some manufacturers offer a second bag, usually called thorax airbag, which opens from the door panel or either from the sides of the seat. Volvo was also first to offer such protection to the chest, with the implementation, in 1994, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS – Side Impact Protection System).
Few manufacturers offer chest airbags, which are usually installed only for the front seats. Thorax protection for rear passengers is currently offered only by European manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
Mercedes-Benz appreciates so much the benefits of side airbags that they are provided in standard equipment on most models, both for passengers in front or rear.
Are airbags safe?
NHTSA has publicly stated that the airbags should not injure vehicle occupants regardless of their age, size and seating position.
There are 15 different tests that cover every type of bag in every position possible on the vehicle. Tests are carried out with models, that the average age is between 3 and 6 years, as well as female models. Test was designed in this way, starting from the idea that if an airbag does not affect a child or a female adult, then it is safe for a larger adult.
”Airbags technology is evolving very quickly, which is why we have so many applications of this technology in use today,” says Phil Haseltine, president of Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety. “In the future, we’ll see perhaps not less but more airbags, because there are so many potential benefits from them, both during side impacts, as well as in rollings.”
Airbags in your car – good or bad ?