Despite their long history in vehicles and the data, many drivers still have an uneasy relationship to their vehicles’ airbags. That can lead to a reluctance to repair them when they break down, but the safety provided by your airbags is just as vital as the role played by your engine’s cooling system. That means replacing broken airbag system parts is just as vital as a water pump replacement for car systems, just in a different way.
Factors Influencing Air Bag Deployment Speed and Force
Air bags deploy quickly, but they do not deploy at high pressure. The average air bag deployment inflates it to 5 psi. This is to control the force of the deployment and ensure they help prevent injuries instead of causing them. While there are still some instances where collision with a deploying airbag causes an injury, it’s typically nowhere near the seriousness of a collision with a dashboard, windshield, or steering wheel.
The angle of deployment and the angle of the crash can both affect deployment speed and force, and the exact forces that need to be exerted on the vehicle depend on the use of other passenger safety tools. For example, many late model vehicles deploy airbags at lower speeds if seatbelts are not buckled than if they are. This is accomplished through the use of devices like the Dorman 590204 impact sensor.
The location of the airbag also plays a big role in deployment speed and force. Side airbags are typically closer to the passenger or driver than frontal airbags, so they deploy faster. It is important to note that while the inflation limit of 5 psi does keep the force down, the velocity of deployment also affects the force of the airbag. That means models designed for faster deployment will exert more impact force when you collide with them. It’s still a fraction of the force involved when you collide with a solid object, but it is larger than the force used in a slower deployment.
Historical Data on Air Bag Effectiveness
According to the numbers compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, frontal airbags have prevented over 50,000 fatalities in the 30-year period since they became commonplace. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a private body that studies safety issues in detail, provides information from studies that have found frontal airbags reduce driver and adult passenger fatalities by about a third. Specifically, 29% for drivers and 32% for passengers over the age of 13.
Side airbags have less history in the studies, but they have been shown to be effective at meeting Federal requirements for head and torso support in side impact crashes, which is an essential part of getting a vehicle approved for street registration in the United States. The best estimate for side airbag fatality prevention by the NHTSA was 2,252 lives saved between their development and the end of 2012.
Replacing Faulty Airbag System Parts
It should be easy to see why you need to keep your airbags in working order by replacing them after a deployment and replacing parts like the clockspring when they wear out. If you’re seeing the system error message that says your airbags won’t deploy because of an issue like a broken clock spring, you need to order your replacement part today.