You likely know that airbags save lives. But exactly how effective are they? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these devices reduce driver fatalities by 29%. Airbags are very effective. 

In all, more than 50,000 lives have been saved by frontal airbags alone. Another 2,000 drivers and passengers have been saved by side airbags. Needless to say, the invention of the airbag has changed the automotive industry forever. Because of these devices, drivers and passengers can all travel safer.

In fact, airbags have been a safety standard since the 1950s. You’ve likely grown so accustomed to this protection that you hardly think of airbags—until, of course, you need them.  

But how exactly do these devices work? Does their deployment come with any risks? Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about your vehicle’s airbags.

Airbags in Action

Airbags have sensors that determine when a crash occurs and how severe the crash is. When the sensor detects that the airbags are needed, it triggers a chemical reaction that inflates the bags. 

As the bag inflates, it bursts through the cover of the steering wheel, panel, or seatbelt it’s built into. Once deployed, the airbag serves as a cushion that decelerates the driver or occupant’s forward movement. 

Immediately after the impact, the airbag begins to deflate. All of these actions occur very rapidly. In fact, most people are unaware that the airbag has deployed until after the movement of the vehicle has ceased after an accident.

Where Are Airbags Located?

In 1998, a law was passed that required all U.S. cars and trucks to have frontal airbags. This law is called the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and it is still in effect today. 

If you are driving a vehicle on United States roads, it likely has at least two airbags: one on each side of the front row. 

These days, however, manufacturers are placing airbags in more convenient places as well. A newer vehicle might have front and side airbags, as well as airbags in the seatbelts and along the roof.

How Quickly Do Airbags Deploy?

An airbag can deploy within 55 milliseconds. That’s literally a blink of the eye and quick enough to keep your head from hitting the dashboard in any accident. 

Can You Get Injured by an Airbag?

It’s common for occupants to receive injuries from airbag deployment.

Usually, these injuries are minor and include:

While you can expect a few minor injuries, remember that airbags greatly reduce your risk of serious injury or death

With that being said, there are some unsafe habits that can put you at greater risk of an airbag injury. Resting your feet on the dashboard, failing to wear your seatbelt, and sitting low in your seat can be dangerous when the airbag deploys.

How Can You Keep Your Children Safe?

Remember, airbags are not designed for children. For this reason, no child should sit in the front row if they are under 13 years old or weigh less than 65 pounds. 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the safest spot for a child is in the middle seat of the back row. And if front-row transportation is unavoidable, you should move the seat back as far as it will go.

Stay Safe Out There

Despite the best efforts of safe drivers, car accidents do happen. In fact, some sources estimate that an accident happens every 60 seconds! Thankfully, airbags make these accidents less likely to end in fatality.