Let The Air Out of The Bag

I have a lot of hot air on the subject of air bags (or airbag) which goes beyond the misleading portrayals in movies but will do my best to keep this post brief, to the point, like any real-working air bag might during its deployment. Although, I must admit the The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! version still manages to wrangle a semi-smothered laugh from me.

Air bags EXPLODE out of the steering wheel, dashboard, side of your seat, near your head where the door meets the roof, and, on newer models, from door panels and seat belts. I know of at least one vehicle manufacturer that calls the air bag system the Supplemental Restraint System, and I applaud this. Supplemental translates “to be used with,” and Restraint refers to your seat belt. Your seat belt plays an important role. If your vehicle collides into another or any heavy object at a high enough speed, your belt keeps you from meeting the air bag too soon, for example as it is still inflating at an astonishing rate:

See in the video how the air bag is completely inflated for less than a second. That’s how long it needs to hold air to do its job properly. Air bags deflate immediately due to large pockets in the canvas material. The material essentially captures the explosion so you hit an item full of hot air instead of something much harder like your steering wheel or dashboard.

The last thing I would like you to consider are seat covers, dash covers, and loose items in the path of a possible air bag deployment. Look at the seats of your vehicle. Normally, the side airbag is on the side nearest your door, inside the seat back, and there is a small tag to identify if you have an airbag in your seat. Unless you install a recommended seat cover, any other, from a car parts store or department store, may not have a stitched-in panel to allow proper deployment of your airbag. This applies to dash covers as well. As for loose items, you do not want any shooting like shrapnel in your passenger compartment during the time of a crash so please make sure no items rest where you can see the outline of the air bag. If you need help seeing exactly where the airbags are in your vehicle, do ask at your next car service appointment.

I have had an air bag go off, and it performed before I could ever hope to consciously react. I was sitting back, looking at this canvas fabric I had just made contact with and was now slack over my steering wheel. Powder covered most of the dash from the chemical reactants utilized to deploy the air bag. (Though newer air bags may not have a visible powder, these powders are intended harmless.) I might have been dazed for a moment but my vehicle had the damage to show for it. The air bag did the job it was meant to do as most will, if you let them. If you are of a shorter stature, like myself, please keep your seat as far from the front air bags as possible while driving, or riding.

I have no strong words for closing so I will add, “Anybody catch the license plate?”


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