The vehicle shown here was a total loss after being involved in a frontal collision at a low rate of speed. This vehicle was in stop/go traffic on a road, normally, traveled at 45 mph. The occupant was wearing a seat belt and escaped with only minor injury. Clearly, the images show that the air bag did not deploy! The question now lies; did the air bag fail to deploy or is the vehicle designed to absorb a frontal crash without sensing air bag deployment?
Air bags are typically designed to deploy in frontal and near-frontal collisions, which are comparable to hitting a solid barrier at approximately 8 to 14 miles per hour (mph). The pictures shown here the driver was traveling more then 14 mph. Roughly speaking, a 14 mph barrier collision is equivalent to striking a parked car of similar size across the full front of each vehicle at about 28 mph. This is because the parked car absorbs some of the energy of the crash, and is pushed by the striking vehicle.
Front air bags are not designed to deploy in side impact, rear impact or rollover crashes. Safety belts help reduce the risk of injury in many types of crashes. They help to properly position occupants to maximize the air bag benefits and they help restrain occupants during the initial and any following collisions. Even in an air-bagged equipped vehicles, it is vitally important to wear your seat belt restraint. Seat belts save lives.
A signal is sent from the air bag system's electronic control unit to the inflator within the air bag module An igniter in the inflator starts a chemical reaction that produces a harmless gas, which inflates the air bag within the blink of an eye - or less than 1/20th of a second.
Side-impact air bags inflate even more quickly since there is less space between the occupant and the striking object, such as the interior of the vehicle, another vehicle, a tree, or a pole
Using seat belts help prevent occupants from being "too close" to a deploying frontal air bag
Up until recently, nontoxic cornstarch or talcum powder was commonly used to lubricate air bag fabrics and aid in deployment. While these lubricants may sometimes appear to be "smoke" when released during deployment, they are actually harmless substances
Most of today's air bag fabrics and coatings (i.e., silicone) are sufficiently "slippery" that additional powder-like lubricants aren't necessary
Exceptions include some heavily coated side curtain air bags developed for rollover crash protection; these air bags may still be lubricated with talcum powder, which could potentially appear as "smoke" when these air bags inflate
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Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Small SUV: Subaru Forester
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