Passive Safety Technologies
By The Editors/autoMedia.com
What they are: Located in the side bolsters of the driver's and front
passenger's seats, side airbags deploy during a certain side impacts to help
provide protection for the thorax.
How they work: As with frontal airbags, side-impact airbags deploy when
side-impact sensors trigger an electrical circuit to ignite a gas generator.
In just milliseconds the side airbags inflate forward from the outside of the
How they benefit the passengers: Side airbags help reduce driver and
front-passenger thorax injuries in a side impact. The reason is because the
sides of a vehicle offer a much smaller deformable area than the "crumple
zones" (see below) in the front and rear of a vehicle.
Side Curtain Airbags
What they are: The natural complement to side airbags, side curtain airbags
help protect the heads of the driver and outboard passengers in certain side
impacts. They are hidden above the headliner, directly above the side windows.
How they work: As with frontal and side airbags, curtain side airbags deploy
when side-impact sensors trigger an electrical circuit to ignite a gas
generator. As they inflate, the side curtain airbags descend from the
headliner to help offer a protective curtain covering the side windows.
How they benefit the passengers: Head injuries are among the most traumatic
kinds of injuries that a person can sustain. Side curtain airbags help provide
a potentially lifesaving layer of protection between the occupant's head and
the side pillar of the car, or an object outside of the car.
What they are: Seatbelts, including shoulder harnesses, are the first line of
defense against injury in an automobile accident. Manufactured from strong
synthetic webbing, they help hold the wearer in place during a collision,
helping to control their rate of deceleration. All outboard seating positions
on new vehicles feature seatbelts that are integral with shoulder harnesses
(although some center belts on bench seats do not).
How they work: A surprising number of technologies have improved seatbelt
design since their inception many years ago. Emergency Locking Retractors
(ELR) allow the wearer freedom of movement while driving, but lock the
seatbelt in place in a collision. Automatic Locking Retractors (ALR) allow
manual locking of the seatbelt to secure a child seat. Pretensioners use a
pyrotechnic device to pull the seatbelt tight immediately following a
collision. And force limiters allow the seatbelt to "stretch" during a
collision to more gradually decelerate the wearer.
How they benefit the passengers: The seatbelt's first and most important task
is to keep the wearer in place during a collision, helping reduce the chance
that he or she will be ejected from the vehicle or strike other occupants or
injurious surfaces inside the car. Technologies like pretensioners and force
limiters enhance their ability to control the wearer's rate of deceleration in