How Airbags and Seatbelts Work
Imagine a past where people drove cars that didn’t have seatbelts or airbags. Some people cringe at the thought. These safety features protect us every single day, but do you really understand them?
How Airbags Work
In the event of an accident, your car loses speed rapidly. When this happens, your car recognizes the reduction in speed and, if the reduction is significant enough, it triggers the airbag circuit. Normal deceleration, such as slamming on the brakes, will not cause the release of an airbag.
Once the airbag circuit is triggered, it passes an electric current through a heating element that causes a chemical explosion. This causes gases to be released into the bag and it starts to fill up with either nitrogen or argon (both harmless). As the bag expands, it bursts through the steering wheel.
As the airbag comes through the steering wheel, your body’s momentum carries your face into the bag. Since there are tiny holes in the airbag, it begins to deflate from the pressure of your body pressing against it.
You may notice a chalky substance everywhere, which is normal. The bags are covered in talcum powder to help them unwrap smoothly.
This is one explosion that you will welcome at the right time.
Why Seat Belts Are So Important
It’s funny to imagine a time when seat belts didn’t even exist. They’ve become so ingrained into our culture that many people can’t even fathom ever not wearing one. Today, we’re going to dive a little deeper and discuss why seat belts are so important.
Invented by English engineer George Cayley in the 1800’s, the seat belt has evolved quite a bit over time. The original seat belt was a two-point safety belt that only went over a passenger’s lap and it eventually evolved into the three-point system that we know today (pioneered by a Swede named Nihls Bohlin).
The three-point system revolutionized seat belts, as the two-point system can lead to a separated lumbar vertebrae and, in some cases, even paralysis because energy is not spread out evenly in the event of an accident. Bohlin solved this problem by creating a system that spreads out the energy of the moving body over the chest, pelvis, and shoulders.
That’s why, as of 2007, all new cars sold in the United States are required to have the three-point system all throughout the car. This system saves lives and the CDC estimates that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.
For anyone who doesn’t buckle up every single time they’re in a car, weigh the consequences of not buckling up vs. the benefits of not buckling up. Then make the rational decision.
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