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How to Use Airbags

Safety - 05 November 2019

Airbags have caused a fair amount of confusion amongst drivers especially when it comes to their safety and effectiveness. Yes, airbags can be a safety risk if not used properly, causing injury or death, but at the same time, they’ve also served to save many lives.

What is an Airbag?

This safety device fitted inside your vehicle is also known as a supplemental restraint system, as it is not meant to replace the use of a seatbelt. The cushion is designed to inflate at high speed at times during a collision which assists with your safe deceleration during a crash event, thus reducing injuries between the flailing occupant and the interior of the vehicle.

How do Airbags Work?

To trigger airbag deployment, sensor controllers are connected to the airbag cushion which detects a range of accident types.

Deployment occurs in the following conditions:

  • Frontal shock at 25km/h or more when the seatbelt is no longer effective
  • High impact on the side of the car
  • The vehicle drops rapidly from a height
  • Collision with a solid object

The complex system activates within milliseconds after a crash occurs. There are three main parts:

  1. The airbag itself is made of thin nylon fabric and folded into the steering wheel or dashboard.
  2. The sensor that tells the bag to inflate detects a collision force equal to running into a brick wall at 16-24km/h
  3. The inflation system consists of sodium azide and potassium nitrate which reacts to produce a large pulse of hot nitrogen gas which inflates the bag at rocket speed, then almost immediately deflates itself.

How to Use Airbags Safely

Airbags can do more harm than good if used improperly due to the sheer force and speed it inflates at. The key to proper use is to remember your position is key – being too close to the airbag can put occupants at high risk. 

  1. All occupants must be buckled up or risk being injured or killed by an airbag.
  2. Small-framed passengers under 40 kg should sit in the rear passenger seats or 25cm back away from the front passenger seat.
  3. Pregnant women and passengers with a medical condition should try and avoid sitting in the front where a deployed airbag could cause harm to their condition.


  1. Never place rear-facing child safety seats in the front seat if the vehicle is equipped with passenger airbags, front or side.
  2. Children under 13 should sit in the back seat and be buckled up properly, away from any airbags that could be deployed.
  3. If unavoidable, then engage the seat as far back as possible, and make sure the child is buckled up.


  1. An airbag does not replace a seatbelt, it supplements the seatbelt.
  2. An airbag that has been deployed must be replaced by an authorised dealer as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.

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