Home Safety When Did Air Bags Come Out: All You Need To Know

When Did Air Bags Come Out: All You Need To Know

by Kelvin Yates

According to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, airbags should be in all US cars. These safety devices date back to the ’50s. Although there is some merit to the early skepticism around airbags, modern airbag designs have saved countless. If you are wondering when did air bags come out? Here is your answer!

Airbags were first introduced in the US in 1970 but became a standard safety device in cars in 1998. Harold Round and Arthur Parrott were the first to patent the idea of airbags in 1920. Their idea was to use cover bags filled with air to safeguard airplane seats.   

Airbags use air systems that deploy on hard contact to safeguard the user. Although airbags are not a full-proof safeguard against injuries and death in the event of an accident; they work efficiently and save lives in accidents. This article will elaborate on everything about airbags and types and answer all your questions about airbags.

Airbag Safety

Airbags, like every other mechanism, must be used correctly, or else they become unsafe. The right way to use an airbag is with a seat belt (as well as the seat belt buckle). Seat belts give restraint from solid impact with the airbag. The force of impact is the significant unsafe aspect of an airbag, and it can cause harm to occupants sitting too close.

The airbag concept is to give the passenger or driver a soft cushion-like landing or restraint in a collision. It aims to reduce the severity of injuries between the occupant and the car. While airbags prove to be an effective safety measure, there are still questions about their safety nature.

Airbags have an inflation risk zone of 5cm to 8cm, so the best distance between an occupant and an airbag is 25cm. This distance provides a considerable measure of safety, especially together with a seat belt. While driving a vehicle with an airbag, ensure to do the following:

  • Tilt the steering wheel, pointing the airbag towards the chest, not the head or chest. 
  • Recline the back of the seat to achieve at least a 10-inch distance from the airbag. 
  • Move the car seat to the rear end of the car, move it away as possible but without causing difficulty in reaching the pedals

The above rules apply only to adults and not children. It is hazardous for a child to sit close to an airbag. A child can die from the impact of an airbag deploying or even get serious injuries.

When Did Air Bags Come Out: Air Bag Safety Rules For Children

Below are different rules for airbag safety for children.

  • Never allow children under one year old in the front seat with a passenger airbag. 
  • Over one-year-old kids riding in the front seat must sit in a front-facing airbag seat with the car seat set as back as possible. 
  • Ensure to buckle the child very well before driving.

Modern airbags are very effective with correct usage; statistics show that the front airbags lessen fatalities by 30%, and the side airbags have a 37% reduction rate in death from head collisions. An airbag offers this protection by providing absorption during a crash.

Airbags use an automatic sensor system to detect when to deploy and are seen as a passive safety measure because it does not require any action by the user. Airbags are one of the most innovative safety mechanisms conceived. It is crucial in a vehicle, except when there is damage to the airbag. Do not use damaged airbags or already deployed airbags.

Airbag System

An airbag is an air cushion restrain system against impact during a collision. Airbags work best together with a seat belt. An airbag supplement restraint system because it needs the use of a seatbelt to be more effective.

The seatbelt holds the user and offers to restrain from hard impact with the airbag. An airbag system consists of these components:

When Did Air Bags Come Out #1. Significant Parts

A diagnostic monitoring unit, indicator lamp, a steering wheel connecting coil, and an airbag module. These important parts connect and take power from the car battery to perform.

When Did Air Bags Come Out #2. Backup Power Supply

There’s a backup power supply if there is no car battery power. The backup power is critical due to the inconsistent use of an airbag.

When Did Air Bags Come Out #3. Crash Sensors

The crash sensors detect when to deploy and ensure the airbags don’t go off due to bumping or minor collision—it sensors the exact amount of force to cause a significant injury and signal deployment.

When Did Air Bags Come Out: How Airbag Works

 An airbag works in the following way to protect its users.

  1. In a collision or accident, the crash sensors pick up unexpected decelerations and immediately send activation signals to the initiator.
  2. The initiator wire gets hot and punctures into the vehicle’s propellant chamber, triggering a chemical reaction called pyrotechnic chain in the inflator.
  3. The chemical reaction generates nitrogen gas which fills the airbag. It takes 0.05 seconds for the airbag to inflate.
  4. The inflation causes the car’s plastic module cover to open and inflate the occupant in the front seat. An airbag takes 0.1 seconds to deploy openly and three-tenths to deflate after a head impact.
  5. Once the airbag inflates and releases, a talcum or cornstarch coating discharges to reduce friction from impact.

First Car With Airbags

With the introduction of airbags in the United States in the middle 1970s, airbags became a favorite alternative to seat belts because it offers almost the same type of protection in a head-on collision without restraint. Ford built some cars with airbags and no seat belts in 1971.

General Motors followed in 1973 with its Chevrolet cars and included airbags in its other brands like Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac. GM referred to its system as the “air cushion restraint system,” and it came with two airbags.

Gradually vehicle designers will move away from airbags as the sole restraint system to a supplemental restraint system, an additional form of occupant safety measure. But in 1987, Porsche 944 Turbo was built with airbags for driver and passenger seats, making it the first car to have multiple airbags as standard equipment. ‘

Following the Porsche 944 Turbo, airbags will become a requirement in cars as safety equipment, with Chrysler and Ford in the forefront introducing the use of airbags across the mid-1980s and making them common use in 1990.

Cars with airbags were first seen in Europe in an Escort MK5 in 1992, and within a short period, all other car companies will adopt airbags across Europe. Before the decade’s end, mass-market cars without airbags as standard equipment will become a scarce find.

Currently, airbags are common finds in any vehicle, even low-budget small-engine cars, with some cars having nine airbags.

Airbag Replacement Laws

Airbags are now mandatory equipment in a car. Unlike before, it was just a good idea. The regulation of airbags and seatbelts began with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Act in 1966.

The act insists that all automobile makers install seatbelts in all vehicles. Even though airbags were not among the law requirement, it became pertinent that three-point shoulder seatbelts work better, and airbags are more effective with seatbelts. Hence airbags became mandatory in every automobile in 1997.

Federal laws do not hinder the replacement or removal of an airbag. It also does not insist that a vehicle have a usable airbag for the duration of its life. Some state laws might have laws regarding airbags that say otherwise.

However, it is firmly not advised to remove or modify a car’s safety systems. Instead, it encourages the immediate replacement of a non-functioning airbag. The law prohibits the removal of an airbag before its sale. It also restricts rendering a car airbag nonfunctional before the sale (render inoperative provision).

Violation of this law provision is subject to a fine of up to $1000. The render inoperative law provision does not apply to car owner’s modifications.

In summary, the NHTSA has a solid policy of not removing airbags and replacing airbags after deployment unless the vehicle is not in use. Although airbags are supplementary measures to seat belts, it is essential to the full protection the car offers in the event of an accident. Airbags can save lives even when a seat belt is not available.

When Did Air bags Come Out

Types Of Airbags

At first, there was only one type of the airbag, the front side airbag. However, with innovative advancements, there are now different airbags to protect various parts of the occupant’s body. The complex system of airbags makes it vital to know these types and their location in the case of replacement.

There are currently four types of airbags found in a vehicle; the names of these airbag types reflect either their location or their modus operandi. They include:

When Did Air Bags Come Out #1. Side Airbags

Side airbags are in two parts of the seat backrest, at the seat side protecting the torso. And at the top of the seat to protect the head from hitting the car roof. Side airbags reduce almost 25% of collision impacts to the chest and top of the head.

When Did Air Bags Come Out #2. Frontal Airbags

The frontal airbag is the first standard airbag used as standard equipment since 1998. It is on the steering wheel and the car dash where it deploys to protect the driver from hitting the car dashboard or screen. Most frontal airbags come with weight sensors to prevent deployment when a child is an occupant.

When Did Air Bags Come Out #3. Knee Airbags

Knee airbags are a more recent development, and they came around 2000. The knee airbag is on the lower side of the car dashboard. It prevents the occupant’s knees from hitting a hard part; knee airbags help prevent knee injuries.

When Did Air Bags Come Out #4. Inflatable Seatbelts

Inflatable seatbelts are seatbelts that function as an airbag does. It spreads wide over the user protecting the mid-region of the body. This airbag protects back seat passengers like children and the elderly by covering the seat occupant’s head, neck, and chest.

Airbag types in a car must function properly, and if there is any malfunction, get a replacement as soon as possible. Replacement can be done by any collision repair shop or professional car mechanic.

When Did Air bags Come Out

Passenger Side Airbag

Passenger airbags are airbags in the passenger seats of a car. They are found under the passenger seat or on the passenger dashboard side. There are two types of passenger airbags: the single-stage and the dual-stage model.

The single-stage model has a connector with two wires, while the dual model has four wires in its connector.

Passenger airbags are safer for children of thirteen years and below because the airbags are on the side of the seat and not the front. Fatality risk reduces up to 13.5 percent and increases with seatbelts.

The leading cause of fatality in passenger airbags is the occupant’s position during deployment and lack of seatbelts. Without seatbelts to hold the occupant in place during deployment, the occupant risks incurring many injuries.

The understanding that the wrong sitting position can lead to serious bodily injury can help reduce the risk of airbag usage. Ensure that seatbelts are strapped in correctly and use a child seat for younger children.

Driver Side Airbag

The driver airbag fits inside the steering wheel and protects the driver’s head and chest in a collision. The driver’s head and chest hit the airbag in a soft impact instead of a hard one. A driver’s airbag has almost 65 liters of gas and can have a control system monitoring its proper functioning.

The driver’s airbag must be functioning correctly. If it is not, ensure to replace it before driving; replacing the driver airbag costs an average of $200-$1000 depending on the model and make of the vehicle.

Curtain Airbags Vs Side Airbags

Side airbags are usually in passenger seats and use a hybrid inflator with a pressure of 3000 psi. The side airbag deploys almost three times faster than the other airbag types because it is in a less risky position. The side airbag protects the head and neck region of the occupant during a collision.

While the curtain airbags are along the side of the seat, when a curtain airbag deploys, it spreads to cover the window glass and prevent the direct hard impact of the user’s head on the glass. Both airbags are always in the passenger seats and are almost as important as the frontal airbag.

Locations Of An Airbag

Airbags are at various parts of the car. Airbags at the steering wheel protect the driver’s head-on collision. There is an airbag at the lower region of the car dash or back side of the seat to protect the user’s knee.

Some cars have airbags at the doors and roof railing sides to safeguard occupants from a forceful impact on the roof and door parts. In some car systems, the safety system automatically tightens the car seatbelts at sudden deceleration for maximum protection from a collision.

Airbags – Facts You Need to Know

  1. Airbags are a type of automobile safety restraint system that use a crash sensor to trigger a rapid expansion of nitrogen gas contained inside a cushion that pops out on impact to put a protective barrier between passengers and hard surfaces.
  2. There are two main types of airbags designed for front impact and side impact, and the appropriate level of power is based on the readings of sensor inputs that can typically detect occupant size, seat position, seat belt use of the occupant, and severity of the crash.
  3. Side-impact airbags (SABs) are inflatable devices designed to help protect the head and/or chest in the event of a serious crash involving impact with the side of a vehicle, and there are three main types of SABs: chest (or torso) SABs, head SABs, and head/chest combination (or “combo”) SABs.
  4. The first electromechanical automotive airbag system was invented by Allen Breed in 1968, and rudimentary patents for airbag predecessors date back to the 1950s.
  5. Linderer’s airbag was based on a compressed air system, either released by bumper contact or by the driver, while Hetrick’s airbag was based on a “safety cushion assembly for automotive vehicles,” also based on compressed air.
  6. Research during the 1960s proved that compressed air was not capable of inflating the airbags quickly enough to be effective.
  7. In 1971, the Ford Motor Company built an experimental airbag fleet, and General Motors installed airbags in a fleet of 1973 Chevrolet Impalas—for government use only.
  8. The first car with a passenger airbag sold to the public was the 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado, and General Motors later offered an option of driver-side airbags in full-sized Oldsmobiles and Buicks in 1975 and 1976, respectively.
  9. Ford and GM spent years lobbying against airbag requirements, arguing that the devices were simply not viable. Eventually, however, the automobile giants realized that the airbag was here to stay, and Ford began offering them again as an option on their 1984 Tempo.
  10. Airbags have been mandatory in all new cars since 1998, and TRW began production of the first gas-inflated airbag in 1994.

Frequently Asked Questions On When Did Air Bags Come Out

Here are some popular FAQs:

When Were Airbags Invented

Airbags were invented in 1919, originally for airplanes by Arthur Parrott and Harold Round. Still, on August 5, 1992, John W. Hetrick brought out airbags for cars and got a patent on August 18, 1953. Still, on August 5, 1992, John W. Hetrick brought out airbags for cars and got a patent on August 18, 1953. The original intent for airbags was for airplanes. However, airbags now exist in cars for safety reasons.

When Did Airbags Become Mandatory

Airbags became mandatory by federal law in 1996. But before it became compulsory by law, most car manufacturers already had airbags in their cars, and it has been appropriate equipment in a vehicle. Since the passing of airbags into law, airbags have kept improving year after year and are now an essential part of car safety equipment before passing into commercial use.

How Are Airbags And Seatbelts Tested

Airbags test are in different stages; the first test is on the components to ensure it works efficiently, and the second test is to ensure deployment efficiency, including perfect timing and inflation volume. The third test stage is when the bag is inside the car seat or dashboard to ensure correct deployment in real situations. Finally, in the last test for impact analysis, there is another test done by the control units to complete the total crash and vehicle on track review. All cars must pass the safety test before going into commercial use.

What Are Airbags

Airbags are passive safety restraint equipment in vehicles. They deploy to protect the car occupant from a hard impact on a car part during a collision. Airbags are very important in a car and need a seatbelt for maximum efficiency. Airbags are usually in the vehicle sterling, dashboard, and seats. Some cars have airbags on the roof and window sides.

What Are Airbags Made Of

The main bag is made of woven nylon fabric and douched in corn flour or talcum powder to prevent the material from gumming together. The airbag also has a fuel that is always a combination of sodium azide and an oxidizer. Nitrogen or argon gas is also in the airbag. The gas realizes on collision impact with a smoke-like residue. Other parts of the airbag include an airbag module, diagnostic monitoring unit, connecting coil, and an indicator lamp. All airbag parts work together in split seconds to deliver efficiently in the event of a collision.

Do Airbags Need Charging

Airbags need charging. They have an independent power source apart from the car battery. The additional power source charges automatically from the car battery. When a car’s battery is unavailable, the airbags can still deploy with the extra power source. A car can be dormant for a while but the airbag still works due to the extra charge in the power source. It is important to always check if the power source is working properly.

Who Invented The Airbag

Harold Round and Arthur Parrott were the first to patent the idea of an airbag: However, the airbag was for an airplane. But, John W. Hetrick was the first to patent the car airbag idea in 1920. A German engineer, Walter Linderer, also filed for a patent three months later, so it is safe to say that John W. Hetrick and Walter Linderer are the inventors of the airbag.

How Long Do Airbags Last

Airbags do not expire. They last as long as the car’s lifetime. But, we recommend an airbag change every fifteen or ten years as part of routine maintenance. An efficiently working airbag can save lives during an accident, this makes the proper functioning of airbags essential in cars.

Are Airbags Required

Yes, airbags are a requirement for safe driving; they protect the car occupant from severe injuries during an accident. Airbags are vital safety equipment in a car and have saved many lives in accident situations. By law, all vehicles should have a working airbag before passing the safety test for commercial use. Airbags work better when the user is on a seatbelt, the seatbelt reduces the force of impact on the airbag.

Is It Illegal To Drive Without Airbags

Driving without airbags is not illegal. It is not a requirement for vehicle owners, and there is no law demanding that a car must have an airbag to use or must be replaced in the event of a deployment. But, airbags are mandatory requirements for car manufacturers; any model of a vehicle must have an airbag.

How Fast Does An Airbag Come Out

An airbag can come out in 55 milliseconds according to an engineering study. The 55 milliseconds is the time between the car crash detection and the airbag’s complete deployment. At this timeframe, an airbag has a speed of about 200mph and a pressure of 5psi. This space is one of the reasons why close contact with a body part during deployment is dangerous.

What Does An Airbag Look Like

An airbag has an air-filled balloon shape at deployment. It comes out at top speed, puffy, a nylon-filled bag. But an airbag still intact takes the shape or size of the seat part it is inside. The airbag is always in the car steering, dashboard, and passenger seats.

How To Test Airbag Impact Sensor

The airbag impact sensor test involves using an automotive diagnostic tool to determine the control unit’s trouble codes and live data. We do not recommend testing airbag impact sensors because they are essential to car safety equipment. If your airbag control module blinks to indicate a fault, replace it.

Conclusion On When Did Air Bags Come Out

With the increase in road accidents, having an airbag is necessary for cars. Driving a car with no airbag is dangerous because there is no cushioning effect preventing a hard impact with the car art in a collision.

When did air bags come out? Airbags became a standard safety device in cars in 1998. To ensure safety at all times, have routine maintenance on the airbags and use smart airbags for children’s seats. With these safety precautions, there is a higher probability of survival in a car accident collision.

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