Automakers, at one time, balked at the idea of an airbag mandate, claiming they were too expensive and would do little to improve safety. Today, airbags come standard, and are even seen in seatbelts, center consoles, and backseats.
The entry-level Chevy Cruze, for example, now offers 10 standard airbags, including front, side, knee and head curtain, as well as outboard, rear-seat, side-impact bags. The automaker's 2012 Sonic also has 10 airbags, including dual-stage bags for the driver and front passenger, roof-rail-mounted head curtain bags, and seat-mounted side impact bags. It also includes knee bags for the driver and front passenger.
Click on the photo below to see a gallery of how other automakers are employing airbags in their vehicles:
Ford's inflatable seatbelts are designed to spread crash forces over five times more area of the body than conventional seatbelts. Used for rear-seat occupants, the inflatable belts help reduce pressure on the chest, and help control head and neck motion. (Source: Ford Motor Co.)
It seems like a motorcycle airbag might work if the rider doesn't just fly over it which is why I think a belt holding you down to the seat would be helpful so you'd be in the right place for the airbag to do some good. I'm thinking of experimenting with the seat belt idea since it would also help on hard braking when my passenger is pushed up against me. I'd need to find a good anchor point. The seat is only held on by the flimsiest of latches so hooking to that would be pretty silly.
I think it's just a matter of time before a high-line motorcycle manufacturer like BMW will offer an airbag system on a bike, probably positioned right at the handlebar mount position and firing directly rearward.
I've wondered if a seat belt on a motorcycle would make sense. If you wore the lower harness and it snapped in behind the rider it would keep you on the seat during a crash and let the motorcycle absorbe the impact. Also if the pointed fairing had a hard steel strut supporting it you could transfer the forces to the car as the strut goes through the cars body panels.
In my nearly 20 years in EMS, I have not seen 1 person killed or seriously injuried by an airbag...minor injuries yes, but the point is they were MINOR, and the patient survived! What IS dangerous is having an airbag and NOT wearing your seatbelt! If your not wearing your seatbelt and the airbag goes off while you are going over the top of the steering wheel or dash, the airbag could cause serious injuries. Note: I have never witnessed this myself, just heard of it happening from other EMS providers. Side note...if you think seatbelts don't work...just remember this...just about the only way someone gets ejected from a car is by not wearing a seatbelt...and almost every patient I have seen ejected from a car DOES have serious injuries...
William K, you seem pretty anti-airbag, and I'll admit that I used to be as well. Good drivers don't get into accidents, don't want explosives in the face, etc.
But a few years back a 17 year-old kid lost control of his truck, crossed the yellow line and hit my vehicle head-on at high speed. Those explosives in my face saved my (and my wife's) lives. Yes, I had my hands positioned improperly and got a good burn on my arm, and my wife got a cut on her nose from her airbag. But I'll take those minor injuries over what could have been. It made a believer out of me. Now I'm all for cramming as many airbags in the car as I can get!
Yes, there are cases where an airbag gives the driver a better chance of survival than say, a seatbelt. See this story below about a lady who drove off a cliff in a canyon in 1992. The car landed front end down, then came to rest upside down. Only her eyeglasses were broken. It's true that airbags often aren't as effective as seat belts, but they do play an important role in some cases.
in 1986 readers digest chronicled one of the first head on crashes for 2 chrysler lebarons with the first production air bags. great article. air bags save lives in leu of a hs steel roll cage with a 6 point harness for each driver. yes, there are a few instances where the air bag isn't necessary or can be a hinderance after the crash (1-2% of crashes?). but i want the air bag(s) in my car (just in case).
also - the air bag control unit actually measures the directional g forces before deploying the air bags. a deer impact will not usually slow down the car fast enough to cause deployment.
and - worrying about rust and crumple zones is a real stretch.
Walt, that is a very good point. Multiple impact collisions do happen.
At one point in the airbags history that powder was sodium hydroxide, which is hard on living things. That came from the zinc-adzide decomposition , and if the bag burst things would be messy. I am not sure what is used currently.
In the case of hitting the deer, the big problem, aside from knocking the driver out, is the large additional expense tp repair all of the damage done by the airbags firing. That was quoted to me as about $1800 for my Neon quite a few years ago. And what if the deer had no insurance? Who pays for the damage then?
William K., I have always thought the same thing - that it bothers me that the government would force me to have live ordinance in front of my (and my family's) face in my car.
Someone's airbag deployed on the road in front of our house when he hit a deer. At that level of impact, the airbag was completely unnecessary and he said that the airbag actually caused him to lose consciousness for a short period of time. Fortunately there was no pole or other obstacle in his way or he could have hit that while in his stunned state. It also filled the whole car with a light colored powder. (I never heard what it took to remove that.) His son was next to him and he was not rendered unconscious - only the driver. I don't like the scenario of rendering the driver unconscious. Now THAT is driver distraction.:)
Seriously, though, one accident can include multiple impacts and it is possible for a skilled driver to avoid the second impact if they are not impaired by an airbag. I have been in that situation (when someone ran a stop sign and hit me). If an airbag had deployed such that it would have impaired me (the driver), one or more of my family members could have easily been killed.
A recently released government report has raised the hopes of automakers looking for a break on future fuel economy regulations, despite the warnings of an Environmental Protection Agency official who said the agency is unlikely to back down on its goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
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