How To React When An Airbag Activates

Published: 02nd October 2008
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Virtually all new cars come with front airbags fitted as standard. There is no doubt that over the years airbags have proven themselves worthy safety devices.

A key factor in their useability and effectiveness is their reliability. An airbag is a use once product however fitted to a car they canr emain inactive for years, patiently lying dorment until required to work.

It is commonly thought that airbags work by utilizing compressed air. That when told to inflate they do so by having compressed air rapidly forced into the bag. This however is incorrect. Given the timeframe involved, from impact detection to airbag fully inflated, compressed air simply would not work rapidly enough. The only thing that can do the job in fact is a chemical reaction so airbags use a chemical called sodium azide. This chemical when heated by an electrical charge rapidly breaks down and produces the gas nitrogen which basically explodes into the airbag inflating it at great speed. Using this chemical reaction the whole process from impact detection, using sensors ar the front of the vehicle, to airbag fully and correctly inflated takes an average of just 30 milliseconds.

An airbag is unlikely to deploy without just casue. When they do the likely cause is a crash or driving collision. For anyone finding themselves in such a situation there are important points to be aware of.

The chemical reaction described above also produces chemicals that can be harmful to people. To neutralize these chemicals other chemicals are added. The result of these chemicals and the chemical explosion which inflates the airbag is the production smoke. Anyone who has witnessed an airbag deploy will know that after the deployment the car interior is filled with quite a lot of smoke. Seeing a smoke filled car after a collision has occurred can obviously prove to be quite worrying however, the important point to remember is that the smoke is harmless.

It is common for the smoke to induce panic in people. Seeing the smoke creates a fear that the car is about to catch fire. Statistically this is unlikely, however panic forces them to rapidly exit the car, an action which can often cause more harm than good. After a road accident the likelihood of personal injury is high. In such a situation often the best thing to do is to remain still and wait for professional medical personnel to give you the all clear. Moving to get out of the car can easily aggravate any injury.

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