Q: What will set off the airbags?

asked by on December 15, 2015

What will set off the airbags?

The airbags are made to inflate in the case of a crash, but how severe of a crash does it take to deploy the airbags? This is a fairly common question, but doesn’t quite capture the complexity involved in the safety systems found in modern vehicles. There are a number of factors that contribute to the airbags inflating:

  • Direction: The airbags found in the vehicle are designed to assist the occupants in a front impact. If the truck is rear-ended or rolled over, the airbags will not go off. A side impact will set off the optional side airbags if the force is strong enough.

  • Speed: Low-speed crashes may not set off the airbags.

  • Angle: If the angle of the vehicle is not straight-on then it will influence which airbags ultimately go off. If the impact happens at the front driver side corner, then the passenger side airbags and possibly the passenger front airbag will not inflate.

  • Force from impact: A crash is not just about the speed of the vehicle, the amount of force the object the vehicle hits absorbs is also a big factor. A hypothetical “immovable object” will make the vehicle experience all of the force from the crash all at once, so the airbags are very likely to go off if the vehicle impacts a wall or other hard, sturdy object. On the opposite end of that spectrum, hitting something that will make the vehicle slow gradually will not set off the airbags. For instance, if the vehicle loses control and rolls onto a soft shoulder it may be stopped by mud or gravel.

Tip

Even in a low-speed crash, the seat belts, airbags, and any other safety equipment should be inspected afterwards to ensure that they were not damaged.

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