Speed thrills but kills… perhaps we don’t really care about the last word. For majority of us, speed only thrills, while completely neglecting the consequences which are deadly. Each day you’ll come across several posts on social media where cars are involved in major accidents due to over speeding and negligence, yet people don’t learn.
Majority of the young blood believes that they are always safe if their vehicle is equipped with ABS and airbags which is not at all true. Just because a vehicle has airbags, doesn’t mean you can create an absolute mess and expect the airbags to save you out there. Airbags don’t guarantee your safety due to a number of reasons. Here is why:
Airbags are not primary safety mechanism:
First point to know is that SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) Air Bags are not meant to be the primary safety mechanism. The airbags will protect you by preventing impact on your body from your chest and above and are supplementary units to prevent injury to head or chest from the steering or dashboard or glass or anything else.
Airbag will work only if seatbelts are fastened:
The SRS Airbag System is designed to supplement the seatbelt system and improve occupant protection in certain types of collisions. In most cases airbags wont deploy if seatbelts aren’t fastened, since airbags without seatbelts on will cause serious whiplash injury.
In an event of collision, a sensor will detect the impact and calculate the collision intensity and deploy the airbag. The time it takes for the airbag to finish deploying is approximately 0.03 seconds. That deployed airbag will deflate and the total time it takes is about 0.1 seconds.
The human eye blinks for about 0.1 -0.3 seconds. For this reason, some who have been near an airbag deployment report they didn’t see the airbag expand because it happens so rapidly.
Not suitable for persons with short height:
The speed at which an airbags deploy is nearly 300km/h that’s almost as same as a bullet train! And it’s supposed to be targeted towards your chest, not your head. That’s one of the reasons why auto manufacturers offer tilt adjustable steering wheels & height adjustable seats today, however ironically the seat height adjustment is not available in most locally assembled cars.
Airbags & Seatbelts with pretensioners:
Imagine if you are traveling at 120km/h and God forbid you are involved in a collision, due to the speed momentum you will fly away from the vehicle if nothing is holding you in place. That’s why your MUST wear seatbelts. Plus you don’t really don’t want an object traveling at a speed of 300km/h in opposite direction hitting you on your head.
The pretensioner mechanism uses an explosive charge to drive a concealed piston when sensors detect the signature abrupt deceleration of an accident. The piston, in turn, rapidly drives the spool around which the fabric strap of a seatbelt is wrapped. That incredibly fast retraction of the belt fabric removes the slack from the belt instantly. This extra seatbelt “pre-” tension, moments prior to the full force of impact, pulls the bodies of the driver and front-seat passenger firmly into their seats. This positions them so as to receive the maximum protection benefit of the front airbags.
Airbags are tested at a certain speed:
The crash testing bodies around the world test the functionality of airbags at a certain speed which varies from 50km/h to up to 64km/h. If you have a vehicle that has a 5-star crash test rating means that it was tested at a maximum speed of 64km/h. Now taking these cars to speed limits above 150km/h and expecting that the airbags will be as effective as 64 km/h is indeed a foolish thing to do.
People often try to take their passenger cars to limits and try to capture the speedometer while driving at such insane speeds on public roads/ highways, which is a very careless act and should be avoided at any cost.
Having Airbag, doesn’t mean it’s functional:
Just because your vehicle is equipped with airbags doesn’t mean they are functional too. The Takata airbag recall, which is considered as one of the biggest recalls in the automotive world affirms the fact that just the presence of airbags isn’t enough, they have to be properly functional as well.
The India made Renault Duster was awarded zero stars by Global NCAP in 2017 due to the fact that the Duster came without airbags. At the manufacturer’s request, the Global NCAP tested the version with optional driver side airbag and was awarded 3-stars. Interestingly the Renault Duster had scored four stars in Latin NCAP crash test in year 2015.
After a thorough investigation, it was found that the airbags of the India-made Renault Duster were smaller than that of the Colombian Renault Duster. The smaller sized airbags in the Indian Duster resulted in the lower NCAP rating under the same testing criteria.
So just having the vehicle that comes with an airbag doesn’t guarantee your safety, there are a lot of things that should be kept in check in order to ensure that the airbag will fulfill its purpose.
Remember, safety mechanisms in advanced machines are designed to reduced the risk to life. Don’t risk your life knowing your vehicle is equipped with safety features. No existing technology assures 100% safety of life, they will definitely work to their best but exceeding beyond the limits is sheer insanity.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com