When it comes to safety, it can be broadly classified into 2 aspects – Active and Passive. Active safety is something that helps in avoiding an accident itself in the first place. Passive safety is that which helps reduce the severity of injuries once the accident has occurred. The most basic devices or pieces of technology for passive safety are seatbelts, the structural integrity of the chassis and airbags. Let’s talk about airbags and how many airbags is considered safe? How many airbags should an Indian car have?
What is an Airbag?
An airbag is an inflatable cushion built to protect the driver and the passengers during a moderate to severe crash. It is designed to work along with seat belts, the front and side airbags help prevent an occupant’s head and upper part of the body from colliding with the hard surfaces of a vehicle’s interiors or the steering wheel in case of the driver. During an impact, the sensor will immediately measure the intensity of the crash and within 1/20th of a second, the module determines if the airbag is needed. And once it decides to deploy the airbag, it will instantly inflate with a non-toxic gas.
Does having an Airbag really help?
Yes of course and the example shown below says it all.
As you can see in the image shown above, the car without airbags scores a 0-star rating, which means there is no safety for the driver or the passengers during the event of a crash. While the same car with just 2 airbags scores an impressive 4-star rating. This shows that even with good structural integrity, the safety of its occupants cannot be guaranteed and having just 2 airbags makes a whole lot of difference.
How many Airbags are enough?
This definitely is a highly debatable topic but we believe that along with the strong structural integrity of the chassis that is well-engineered, 6 airbags should be more than enough. Some cars offer 10 or more airbags and not all of them are really necessary. This is one of those cases where more is not necessarily better. According to a study, even the knee airbag is actually not necessary since the seatbelt and front airbag combo usually refrain the driver or passenger from moving forward.
Now our statement is that it is not really necessary but having one doesn’t hurt and doesn’t make much of a difference as well. We also don’t want you to conclude that the manufacturer’s claim of their product having 10 or more airbags being safer is false. While it is safe, having even 20 or 30 airbags in a car that is structurally weak or whose chassis is not engineered correctly, is absolutely useless.
If you have read the owner’s manual of a car that has only 2 airbags you will realise that the airbags will not deploy in every case of an accident. To be more specific, the airbags will not deploy in case of a side impact as this will not push the passengers forward and the frontal airbags are of no use. We don’t blame the manufacturer as it makes perfect sense. During side-impact, our body moves from one side to the other and not towards the front or back so the front airbags getting deployed might actually cause more harm than good. In this case, having a curtain airbag will not only soften the blow but also protect the passengers from the shards of broken glass and debris.
So, the 2 front airbags for frontal impact and the curtain airbags for side impacts should be enough in any kind of accident. Of course, you need to take this with a pinch of salt as accidents don’t happen the same way as they are replicated during crash tests but the good part is the crash tests cover most of the scenarios.
Now you might get a question lurking in your mind that there are cars like Nexon which offer only 2 airbags but have scored a full 5-star rating in the Global NCAP crash tests. If you have seen or read this, then you should also be aware that the Global NCAP crash tests are performed or tested only for frontal impacts at speeds of 60 km/h. This means that side impacts are not considered at all. So the Nexon with 2 airbags might not score well if you bring in the side impacts into the story. But since the Mahindra XUV300 has a total of 7 airbags including curtain and side airbags, it might still score a 5-star rating even when the side-impact collisions are tested.
That’s the reason we believe that 6 airbags should be minimum and thank god that the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has pushed the manufacturers to make 6 airbags as standard for all cars. We are yet to see when this will come into effect but when it does, it definitely will make a lot of difference and a lot safer.