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What Happens after a Deployment?
 

Once the airbag deploys, deflation begins immediately as the gas escapes through vent holes in the airbag and/or through the airbag fabric. This rapid deflation helps the driver maintain control of the vehicle, if it is still moving after the crash, and ensures that an occupant cannot be suffocated or trapped by an airbag.

Deployment is frequently accompanied by the release of dust like particles in the vehicle's interior. Most of this dust consists of corn starch or talcum powder which is used to lubricate the airbag during deployment. Small amounts of sodium hydroxide may initially be present. This chemical can cause minor irritation to the eyes and/or open wounds; however, with exposure to air, it quickly turns into sodium bicarbonate (common baking soda). Depending on the type of airbag system, potassium chloride (a table salt substitute) may also be present.

For most people, the only effect the dust will produce, if any, is some minor irritation of the throat and eyes. Generally, minor irritations only occur when the occupant remains in the car for many minutes with the windows closed and no ventilation. However, some people with asthma may develop an asthmatic attack from inhaling the dust. With the onset of symptoms, asthmatics should treat themselves as advised by their doctor, then immediately seek medical treatment.

Once deployed, the airbag cannot be reused and should be replaced before the vehicle is returned to service.

Airbags, Safety Belts and Child Safety Seats

Safety belt help keep front seat occupants correctly positioned in order to optimize the benefits of a deploying airbag. Occupants may move more to the side than straight forward into the airbag, even in frontal collisions when the crash is offset to one side or the vehicles strike at an angle. Unbelted or improperly belted occupants can come into contact with the airbag module during pre crash braking. Resting against or contacting an airbag module when it deploys can cause serious or even fatal injury.

It is critical for all front seat occupants to be correctly positioned. The proper use of safety belts is an important part of correct positioning. Safety belts should always be worn with the lap belt low and snug across the hips and the shoulder belt across the chest adjusted according to the manufacturer's instructions (see your owner's manual). In addition, front seat occupants should sit upright against the seat back with the seat adjusted as rearward as practical. Drivers should position themselves away from the airbag module, while maintaining the ability to safely operate all vehicle controls.

By law, small children must be placed in child safety seats. Front facing child safety seats can be used in the front seat of vehicles with passenger side airbags; however, the seat should be adjusted as far back as possible. It should be noted that, according to accident statistics, rear seating positions are safer for properly restrained children.

Rear facing infant restraints extend farther forward in the vehicle, thereby creating the potential for serious injuries from contact with the airbag. Consequently, rear facing child safety seats should never be placed in the front seat of vehicles with passenger side airbags. Always follow the child restraint and vehicle manufacturers' instructions for proper use of child safety seats.

Airbag Contact Injuries

Airbags must inflate very rapidly to be effective, and therefore come out of the steering wheel hub or instrument panel with considerable force. Because of this force, contact with a deploying airbag may cause injury. These airbag contact injuries, when they occur, are typically very minor skin abrasions or burns.

More serious injuries are rare; however, serious or even fatal injuries can occur when a vehicle occupant is very close to, or in direct contact with an airbag module when the airbag deploys. Such injuries may be sustained by unconscious passengers who are slumped over the steering wheel, unbelted occupants who slide forward in the seat during pre crash braking, improperly restrained occupants, and even properly restrained drivers who sit very close to the steering wheel. Significant forces can be generated against the back of rear facing child safety seats located in the front seat of vehicles equipped with passenger side airbags. Serious injury may occur to the infant occupant as a result.

Experience has shown that airbags, in combination with properly worn safety belts, are highly effective lifesaving devices in the types of crashes in which they are designed to deploy. Injuries caused by airbags are infrequent and typically very minor. The risk of serious injury can be significantly reduced by correct occupant positioning. The benefits of airbags vastly outweigh the remote chance of serious injury.

Summary
Wear your Safety Belt

Airbags, while they save lives, are not a cure all for automobile safety. It is critical that occupants always properly wear their safety belts.

Airbags are designed to deploy only in moderate to severe frontal or near frontal collisions.

Airbags do not reduce the risk of injury in rear, side or rollover crashes. Safety belt help reduce injury risk in many types of crashes.

Airbags deploy only once. Safety belt help restrain occupants during the initial collision and any subsequent collision, if the vehicle strikes more than one object.

Safety belt help keep front seat occupants in position to maximize an airbag's effectiveness.

Safety belt help keep front seat occupants away from the airbag module during deployment. Remember, very close or direct contact with an airbag module during deployment can cause serious or even fatal injury.

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