Since March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, we decided to pay a little homage to the air bag—a safety feature that, when combined with seatbelts, helps reduce the severity and incidence of head injury.
Airbags: A Brief History
Airbags were invented in 1952 by John W. Hetrick of Pennsylvania. After experiencing a wreck with his family, he was committed to finding a way to prevent people’s heads from striking the hard interior of the car. During the same period of time, Walter Linderer, a German inventor, was also working on a car cushioning device to protect drivers during an accident. Development of an airbag that would respond quickly without causing secondary injuries to the driver took several more years to develop. In the late 1960s, Allen K. Breed of New Jersey invented an effective and reliable crash sensor that enabled airbags to be developed into what they are today. He later made deployed airbags even more effective by developing a system that enables the air bag to vent air, thus preventing secondary injuries caused by previously rigid cushions.
Since the mid-1980s, car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Chrysler began incorporating airbags into their vehicles as an additional safety feature. It wasn’t until 1998 that the United States government mandated that all passenger vehicles come with dual frontal airbags.
How Airbags Work
When your car’s impact sensor indicates that a strong enough impact has occurred, your airbags will deploy within milliseconds of the collision. The folded nylon bags will quickly inflate and serve as a soft cushion that prevents you from hitting your head on the steering column or dashboard and keeps you from experiencing sharp whiplash.
Maintaining your Airbags
There are two main components to an airbag system: the impact sensor and the airbag module unit. Please be aware that you should NEVER modify or repair any component of your airbag system by yourself. Making repairs or adjustments to an airbag system, including re-stuffing a deployed airbag, may cause it to fail when it’s needed. It is important to have your airbag system checked periodically by a professional, especially if your airbag light is on, to ensure everything is in working order. Talk to your mechanic about a specific timeline for having your vehicle’s airbag inspected.