This article explains why the airbag is becoming a dominant feature of US automotive safety and causing problems for British car manufacturers. It was invented in the 1960s, at first promoted enthusiastically, then discredited in the 1970s, then revived in the 1980s. The airbag forms part of a system composed of several sensors which react to a collision. During a collision, it inflates like a balloon on front of the occupant, distributes the load of impact over a large area of the occupant's body, and reduces the deceleration acting on the occupant. Airbags are effective only for frontal collisions within an angle of about 30 degrees on either side of straight ahead, but such accidents account for a high proportion of all injury accidents. However, the airbag provides no protection at all for other types of accidents, such as rollovers, side-swipes and tail-end shunts. Thus European accident safety experts remain unanimous that the standard lap-and-diagonal seatbelt is still easily the most effective safety device so far invented, though they agree that the airbag can play a useful supplementary role in reducing facial injuries. The revival of the airbag in the USA seems to be due mostly to americans' strong reluctance to wearing seatbelts. The airbag is now being introduced rapidly in the USA and is already a standard fitting in several American car models. Some British and European manufacturers offer it as an optional supplement for some of their models exported to the USA, despite the high costs of such provision and despite remaining airbag problems.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    Haymarket Magazines Limited

    38-42 Hampton Road
    Teddington, Middlesex,   England 
  • Publication Date: 1989-4-26


  • English

Media Info

  • Pagination: p. 82-84
  • Serial:
    • Autocar & Motor
    • Volume: 180
    • Publisher: Haymarket Magazines Limited
    • ISSN: 0955-5889

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00498717
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Transport and Road Research Laboratory (TRRL)
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 4(4809)
  • Files: ITRD, TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 30 1990 12:00AM