Air bags have been in use for over twenty years, but in 1991 Congress ordered for each manufacturer to encompass both a driver a passenger air bag in all passenger vehicles by the year 1998. While the driver side air bag is typically located in the steering wheel hub, the passenger air bag is stored in the instrument panel or in the passenger compartment. The passenger air bag is characteristically two or three times the size of the driver air bag. The reason being is that the passenger is further away from the instrument panel than the driver is from the steering wheel hub.
As stated before, each air bag is activated by a crash sensor, which detects any impact caused by collision. Crash sensors are usually located in the front of the vehicle, or in the passenger compartment. A driver air bag as well as a passenger air bag is capable of deflation in less than one half of a second after impact. Not only can these sensors detect impact, they are capable of distinguishing the speed of a vehicle while decelerating. The rate of the vehicles speed can release the air bag according to the severity of the accident.
Once the air bag is deployed, it is no longer of any use. However, a certified service technician will be able to replace both the driver and the passenger air bag.
As air bags have reduced the amount of deaths caused by accidents, they can be harmful to children. Adults must be aware that all children under the age of twelve are prohibited from sitting in the passenger seat of an operating vehicle, and must be seated in the back seat at all times. This particular air bag warning prevents injury to children who are more sensitive to the deflation of an air bag. It also prevents children from suffocation in the event of a deployed air bag.
Vehicles are required to include warning labels, which state the repercussions in failing to heed these important safety guidelines for children.
Two-seated vehicles such as pickup trucks have option of installment of an on-off switch. This is mainly to benefit parents who own a two-seated vehicle. When the child is riding in the passenger seat, you can manually turn the passenger air bag off. Approved service technicians must install these manual on/off switches.
Adults must heed the air bag warning and remain at least 10 to 12 inches away from where the air bag is released.
Some drivers are under the false pretense that if the vehicle has an air bag, then they have the option of wearing a seat belt. It's important to understand that a seat belt should be used at all times under any circumstances. While it's true that air bags are an added safety feature, you must recognize that seat belts are still the most secure safety feature in a vehicle.
Most vehicle owner manuals have a section where it explains the air bags in detail. It would be wise to thoroughly read over the owner's manual so you can become more familiar with your vehicle's frontal air bags.