Airbags have probably been the most significant car safety device to be developed since the invention of seat belts, however even though they can provide significant protection against major injury, they can also cause injuries both when they work as intended and when they don’t. Airbags first began appearing in passenger vehicles in the 1970s, with driver airbags becoming common by the early 1990s, and with vehicles of today now often including both driver and front passenger airbags to protect against impacts from the front and side torso and side curtain airbags to protect against collisions from the sides and rollovers.
In order to protect a vehicle occupant from serious injury in a collision, an airbag must react with an equivalent significant force — it does this by exploding a pyrotechnic device that rapidly and forcefully fills the bag with gas. Some systems are smart enough to detect the severity of an impact and “explode” the airbag with just enough force to provide protection, but most systems — especially older ones — simply inflate the bag to its fullest. And in the United States, design standards require a more forceful bag inflation than do international standards.