Safety: Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!

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Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!

Safety: Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!-wheel

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The airbag is built into the middle of the steering wheel.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa / dpa

Safety: Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!-ADAC exposes safety deficiencies child

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The airbag has been activated…

Source: picture-alliance / dpa / dpa

Safety: Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!-caution

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… and is about to fill with air.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa / dpa

Safety: Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!-ADAC exposes safety deficiencies child

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The sack fills with air at lightning speed.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa / dpa

Safety: Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!-ADAC exposes safety deficiencies child

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It only takes a few milliseconds until the airbag is completely inflated.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa / dpa

Safety: Caution, risk of explosion at the wheel!-wheel

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When fully inflated, the airbag protects the chest and head from injuries. The recordings are from 2005.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa / dpa

The airbag turns 30 years old. Its technology has been shown to save lives, but it can also lead to serious injuries. Researchers are calling for improvements.

A.All men take cover. The test site is cordoned off, engineers and technicians hide behind thick walls and wait eagerly. One of them presses the red button on the control panel and suddenly there is a bang. Tatters of fabric and plastic fly through the air, smoke rises. The men smile. The experiment was a success.

So the tests with the airbag began at the end of the 1960s. A risky venture. Because in the ignition mechanism that inflates the airbag, there was a highly explosive military technology.

Many explosion tests and more than 2500 crash tests were necessary before the airbag could go into series production almost exactly 30 years ago. Mercedes presented the first model with this safety technology at the Geneva Motor Show in early March 1981. For the driver airbag and the new belt tensioner, an extra charge of the equivalent of 760 euros was charged.

Today airbags are no longer an extra and, together with the belt, have saved thousands of people from serious injuries. However, the airbag is not undisputed. More and more doctors and accident researchers are criticizing the airbag because the invention is considered to be the cause of serious injuries. "The airbag is not a cuddle pillow," says safety expert Bernd Lorenz from the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt).

The renowned "Medical Tribune" reports on a study by British surgeons who examined 450 accident victims. "More than a fifth of forearm fractures were directly due to the airbag breaking up," says trauma doctor Mark Chong from the University Hospital in North Durham, UK. The blame is the great force with which the air sacs unfold.

Other experts warn of cuts on the face caused by the hard fabric of the airbag. In addition, the bang when ignited could cause hearing damage. Surgeon Chong demands: "Further development is urgently needed."

This is what researchers from German and American institutes also say. Above all, you criticize the reliability of the airbag. The US traffic safety agency estimates that between 2001 and 2006 more than 570 car occupants died in accidents because the airbags did not inflate. Around two thirds of them would still be alive if the air cushions had worked.

In a BASt report, over 690 traffic accidents were analyzed. The researchers described 24 percent as "problematic cases" because the airbags did not deploy despite a strong impact, the air cushions ignited without an accident or they caused injuries. The experts cite faulty cables and plug connections, but also problems with the sensors, as the causes of the failure.

These sensors are located in the lower area of ​​the front end of the body or on the center tunnel and are intended to measure the deceleration of the car in the event of an impact. Your data will determine whether the airbag is activated. However, some accidents are not recorded at all. For example, if the driver brakes hard before the accident, causing the car to submerge and slip under a truck or trailer. In such collisions, the airbag often does not fire because the impact occurs above the sensors.

According to many experts, the fact that airbags do not ignite in serious accidents is due to the crash test regulations. You determine the speed and the angle of impact, but the reality is often different. If the car hits an obstacle at a shallower angle and at a slower speed than prescribed in the standard crash test, the front airbag may not even deploy in the first place.

Developers know the discrepancies between the laboratory and reality. That is why some companies conduct their own accident research. A new development from the automotive supplier Conti, with which the accident occurred, appears promising "should be heard ”. The sensors work like a seismograph: as soon as the body is deformed in an accident, structure-borne sound waves are transmitted, which are registered by the sensors. The more intense the waves, the more serious the accident. The method is intended not only to better detect the crash, but also to detect it earlier. In the VW Golf this sensor system is already in use.

"We need security systems with more intelligent technology, ”says Gregor Gstrein from Graz University of Technology. He is working on an early warning system made up of radar and laser sensors that detects the crash in advance and calculates where and at what speed the impact will occur. In this way, the air sacs can ignite and break even before the impact "gently ”unfold.

Gstrein’s client is Mercedes-Benz. The manufacturer even wants to install an airbag under the front axles in the future. There it should serve as an emergency brake and stop the car abruptly before an accident. "The frictional force of the airbag is twice as good as that of a conventional brake, ”says Mercedes engineer Karl-Heinz Baumann. So you can significantly reduce the impact speed.

Baumann calculates that the crumple zone of a car would have to be a good 18 centimeters longer in order to achieve the safety effect of the new type of brake airbag.

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