Do airbags always deploy in a crash?

Airbags malfunctioning

My Honda City met with an accident and despite all pressure points getting damaged, none of the six airbags opened. The company reasons that the car must have switched off, leading to the airbags not deploying. I asked them for a thorough investigation, but there’s been no response.

Akhil Pitty, Aurangabad

Autocar India says: There could be several reasons why your car’s airbags did not deploy in the event of a seemingly severe vehicle crash. First and foremost, the severity of the impact is a critical aspect as airbags are designed to deploy only in certain types of crashes: those involving a significant change in the vehicle’s velocity, rapid deceleration, or during a frontal- or side-impact collision. If the accident did not meet the specific criteria, they may not have been activated.

Moreover, airbags are part of a car’s passive safety system, with seat belts forming the primary restraint system. Airbags complement seat belts and are a part of the supplementary restraint system (SRS). The seat-belt system, which includes seat belts, pretensioners and load limiters, is the first to respond during a crash, and ensures that the occupants are securely restrained in their respective seats.

The combined seat belt and airbag system is intelligent enough to analyse the pre-crash conditions like the position and weight of occupants and seat-belt usage. It is only when the system determines that airbag deployment would cushion the occupants without harming them, the airbags will be triggered to save occupants from severe injuries.

However, one cannot discount some technical failures such as a sensor malfunction during the accident, which could have prevented airbags from being deployed. Additionally, some maintenance issues, such as improper replacement of airbags and sensors after a previous accident, could jeopardise their functionality in the subsequent event as well.

While it is hard to believe the service centre’s reasoning that the vehicle switching off during the collision would have prevented airbag deployment, it is crucial to have qualified technicians or company engineers inspect the vehicle and give a proper explanation. They can assess the conditions of the sensors, the system’s integrity, and any other potential factors that may have contributed to the non-deployment of the airbags, even if the situation demanded.

Also See:

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Opinion: Six airbags? Why not eight?!

We needn't make six airbags mandatory now, says Union Transport Minister


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