You may have noticed a logo in front of you in your car that says “SRS Airbag” or just “Airbag”. Those emblems are there to indicate that your car has airbags. These days every car is required to have them, and since 1998 it’s required for both the driver and passenger to each have one. Nowadays the airbags reside in not only the dashboard and steering wheel, but in the doors and seats as well, and they help to reduce fatalities in accidents by 30-percent.
In terms of raw materials, airbags are stitched woven nylon fabric coated in cornstarch in order to prevent the material from sticking together. The bag is surrounded by a heat shield so it doesn’t burn during deployment, which happens when sodium azide mixed with an oxidizer is ignited inside of a canister made of aluminum or steel which sits behind the airbag assembly.
Every car has collision sensors at the front and airbags are designed to deploy when those sensors detect sudden deceleration. The sensors activate an ignitor inside of the aluminum or steel canister which turns the sodium azide (and an oxidizer) into nitrogen gas which fills the airbag with enough force to break open the plastic covering of a steering wheel, dashboard etc.
When you’re driving a car, you and everything inside of it is going the same speed that you see on your speed indicator. So when you hit something, the car stops but everything inside (including you) is still going the same speed. The airbag is meant to work with your seatbelt to stop you from flying through the windshield.
As stated before, airbags have helped reduce fatalities in accidents by 30-percent, but they are not without faults. Airbags had caused hundreds of deaths by 2006 according to Bloomberg, but it’s important to remember that in many of those cases the victims were not restrained and most occurred in older vehicles. However there was a recall earlier this year targeting airbags manufactured by Takata that were used by 19 different car brands.
An important thing to remember about airbags is it does not change a whole lot about the car. Yes, the interior will be covered with white powder but it doesn’t mean the car is worth a lot less. Does airbag deploy mean total loss? Not necessarily. Totaling a car, or giving a car a salvage title, depends entirely on the repair cost (damages or to replace the airbag), which can be a lot unfortunately. That being said if the repairs cost more than the car is worth, then yes if the airbags deploy the car becomes salvaged. You can still drive the car after the airbags have deployed.
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