As scientific advancements in combustion engine occurred, the motor car was capable of running at tremendous speeds. While the first production car, The Benz Velo (1894), could move at a top speed of around 19 kmph, today a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport achieves a top speed of 431 kmph. Most passenger cars are capable of speeds in excess of 120 kmph.
With increasing speeds come the challenges of passenger safety. What if a car is involved in a crash or collision with another vehicle or a stationary object? How will the passengers be protected? A moving car is an object with momentum (product of its mass and velocity). Due to inertia, the passengers are also moving with a velocity equal to that of the car. If the vehicle is stopped gradually, natural deceleration takes place over a period of few seconds and hence the effects are not felt by the passengers.
The Dynamics of a Car Crash
During a crash, deceleration occurs within a fraction of a second and hence the forces acting on the passengers are tremendous. Even though the car has been abruptly stopped, the bodies of the passengers will still be in motion and will experience a severe jerk. If this body is not restrained, it may suffer from a fatal collision with the steering wheel or dashboard of the car.
Air bags have been saving countless lives since the 1980s when they were first used in passenger cars. Today many countries have made it mandatory to install multiple air bags in all production cars. There are usually two air bags in the front; one at the steering wheel and the other besides it on the dashboard to protect the adjacent person. Apart from these, many cars have side air bags as well.
How Air Bags Work
The air bag system comprises of three parts; one, the sensors that detect a collision (about 15 milliseconds later, they decide whether or not to deploy the air bags) and signal the air bags to inflate; two, the inflation system, which reacts violently to produce hot nitrogen gas, which inflates the air bags after 25 milliseconds of the crash; and finally the air bag which is made up of a nylon fabric and is folded into the steering wheel or the dashboard. Once triggered, the inflation is complete within 20 milliseconds. A deployed air bag can also be deflated within 60 seconds to let the passengers come out of the vehicle.
Buckle Up. No Excuses.
Air bags, along with the seat belts, make up an efficient restraint system to protect a passenger from the fatal consequences of a crash. While the front air bags protect individuals from a head-on collision, side air bags protect them from lateral impacts.
Each year, 1.3 million people in the world lose their lives in road accidents. This figure could be dramatically higher, if not for the life-saving activities of the air bags. The importance of air bags can never be more underlined. So ensure that your vehicles air bags are working perfectly and experience peace of mind and utmost safety.