A look at how seat belts and airbags can prevent personal injury during car accidents
The very first driver to die in a car accident was way back in February 1899 when a 6 HP Daimler smashed into a brick wall on a steep hill on the outskirts of London. At the wheel was a gentleman named Edwin Sewell, a young engineer who was thrown from the vehicle at the moment of impact and died instantly.
Since that fateful winter day, tens of millions of people throughout the world have lost their lives as a result of car accidents so, in an attempt to cut the number of deaths, today's manufacturers place great emphasis on safety when designing their vehicles.
There are two major developments that have played a significant and vital part in reducing road deaths over the past years - seat belts and airbags.
Despite all the highly advanced technological innovations that go into producing a car, it really is amazing that a simple piece of uncomplicated fabric is the one device that saves more lives than anything else.
Seat belts were first made compulsory in Great Britain for drivers and front seat passengers in 1982 and are thought to save as many as 2,200 lives every year. Since 1991 it has also been law that adults must wear a seat belt in the back of the car if there is one fitted and this has undoubtedly also prevented numerous fatalities.
The basic concept of a seat belt is very simple; it essentially stops you being catapulted through the windscreen or smashing into the dashboard when the car comes to a sudden halt in the event of an accident or emergency stop.
If a seat belt wasn't worn, an abrupt stop at a speed of 30mph would send you flying forwards with a force of between 30 and 60 times your own body weight. With the only thing to hit being a glass windscreen, the steering wheel, the dashboard or, if you're sat in a rear seat, the back of the person in front, the chance of sustaining serious personal injuries in such a situation is quite high.
Seat belt design has changed relatively little over the last few decades and nowadays almost all cars are fitted with a standard 3-point belt. These belts are designed specifically to spread the force created in a car accident across the rib cage and the pelvis, which are both fairly sturdy parts of the body. Spreading the force minimises the risk of personal injury and the material of the seat belt actually stretches a little in order to make the stop not quite so abrupt.
Seat belts are proven to be the most important single safety device in a car and have saved countless lives since their introduction. They can only work, however, if people take it upon themselves to use them. It is currently estimated that ten percent of motorists still fail to buckle up and so risk their lives every time they get behind the wheel.
For many years seat belts were the only real method of saving lives and preventing injury in the event of a car accident but recently another device has emerged - the airbag.
Airbags were actually first patented during the Second World War as inflatable crash-landing mechanism for aeroplanes, but didn't appear in cars until the 1970s. Even then their use was very limited and only a few cars were fitted with them.
There was initially some scepticism about the use of airbags, similar to that which first greeted the introduction of seat belts, but in 1998 they became mandatory on all newly-produced vehicles.
The basic idea of an airbag is to slow the speed of the individual down to zero in an instant with as little damage as possible to the body. There is very little time from the moment the car crashes to when the head is likely to impact upon the dashboard, so the airbag has to deploy within a fraction of a second.
The normal force required to inflate an airbag is equal to that created when driving into a solid object at between 10 and 15mph. When such a force occurs, a sensor within the car is activated, a chemical reaction occurs and nitrogen gas causes the bag to inflate. This whole process takes place in just one twenty-fifth of a second and really can mean the difference between life and death.
Manufacturers have been quick to understand the importance of airbags in car accidents and so have poured a significant amount of money into their study. Once solely used on the steering wheel and the front passenger's dashboard, they are now beginning to be fitted to other parts of the car. Many new vehicles are fitted with side airbags as standard and it is thought that cars in the near future may have as many as seven or eight in order to safeguard the vehicle occupants even further.
Airbags are estimated to cost in the region of £200 to produce and fit but the expense is justified by the enormous amount of protection they provide in the event of a car accident. It is estimated that they have cut deaths from road accidents by as much as 30% and have prevented numerous amounts of people from suffering severe head injuries.
Claim car accident compensation
Despite the use of seat belts and airbags, injuries do still occur in road accidents. If you've been hurt in a non-fault car crash, you could be entitled to make a claim for personal injury compensation.
Here at Car Accident Advice Line we've got years of experience of helping people win compensation after they've been hurt on the road. Our solicitors work on a no win, no fee basis and don't charge you a single penny for their services. They will even allow you to keep 100% of any compensation awarded and, with an excellent success rate, you really do have an excellent chance of winning.
So pick up the phone today and call us on 0808 143 43 42. We really are the best people for the job