Airbag Anniversary

Monday, 27 September 2010

The concept for the airbag dates back to 1952 when John W Hetrick, an industrial engineer with the US Navy, designed and patented the concept.

But it wasn’t until the mid 1970s that first tentative steps in adding this safety feature was trialled in some Ford and GM cars.

Early US airbags simply deployed on impact which could still result in drivers being injured in an accident with faces, arms and hands taking the brunt of the explosive force.

Meanwhile, half way around the world, the team at Mercedes Benz were conducting their own research. After 13 years they addressed the issue of airbag injuries by introducing seatbelt pre-tensioners so in a crash event, the seatbelts automatically lock thus reducing forward movement on impact.

This year Mercedes Benz celebrates the 30th anniversary of its first series production car equipped with an airbag – the S-Class Saloon.

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the airbag has saved more than 28,000 lives in the USA alone.

A recent study by the NHTSA in the USA examined the effectiveness of belt and airbag systems, and came to impressive conclusions: "Compared to an occupant not wearing a seat belt in a vehicle with no airbag, the statistical probability of fatal injury with an airbag and seat belt is 61 percent lower.”

But as with everything, an airbag alone is not enough to protect drivers and passengers.

All safety experts agree that the airbag can never be a substitute for seat belts.

It is only in conjunction with a seat belt that it becomes an optimally coordinated system that demonstrably makes a major contribution to the prevention of severe or fatal injuries to the occupants during serious accidents.

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