At What Speed Do Airbags Deploy? (All You Need To Know)

Accidents are more likely to cause a greater amount of damage when they occur at higher speeds, but you may be wondering what qualifies as fast enough when manufacturers are installing airbags.

If so, keep reading through this article to learn about which speed airbags deploy at, among other related topics!

At What Speed Do Airbags Deploy?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you would have to be driving at between 8 and 14 miles per hour (about 13 to 23 km/hr) or faster at the time of impact for airbags to deploy. This means that airbags only deploy during impacts that are likely to cause injury.

Keep reading to learn more about how fast you need to drive to activate your airbags, including when they don’t deploy, potential injuries, how they deploy and other useful facts!

At What Speed Do Airbags Go Off In Km?

Airbags go off if you were driving at 13 to 23 km/hr or more at the time of the impact.

This speed is the threshold for what the NHTSA defines as a “moderate to severe” frontal or near frontal crash.

It’s also the usual for unbelted occupants; for occupants wearing the safety belt, the threshold is usually a little higher, at 16 mph or  about 26 km/hr.

Do Airbags Deploy If The Car Is Not Moving?

Do Airbags Deploy If The Car Is Not Moving?

You don’t actually have to be moving at all for the airbags to deploy. If the car is stationary, the airbags will deploy if the vehicle gets struck by an object moving at between 16 and 28 mph (26  to 45 km/hr).

This only happens if the car is not moving but the engine is on, like at a red light or parking lot before you get out.

If you’re stationary but the car isn’t running, the airbags will not deploy.

At What Speed Do Airbags Deploy in the UK?

Airbags are usually designed to deploy at the same speed across all locations, so in the UK this would be the same as the range in the US (i.e. between 8 and 16 mph depending on whether the occupants are wearing their belt).

At What Speed Do Airbags Deploy in Australia?

In Australia, front airbags deploy at 8 to 14 mph or 13 to 23 km/hr or higher.

At What Speed Do Airbags Deploy in Canada?

For your airbags to deploy in Canada, the impact would need to be equivalent to hitting a wall at 13 to 23 km/hr or faster.

At What Speed Will Side Airbags Deploy?

At What Speed Will Side Airbags Deploy?

Side airbags have to deploy at a lower threshold than front airbags because an object that collides with the side of the vehicle is more likely to make direct contact with the passengers.

For example, if you lose control of your car and hit a tree, the tree could also hit you directly and you’ll be left open to other injuries when the glass shatters.

This is why side airbags usually deploy at speeds as low as 8 mph when the vehicle crashes into something narrow (ex. a pole or a tree).

When the crash is spread out over a larger area, such as when you get T-boned by another vehicle, the threshold is higher, at around 18 mph (about 29 km/hr).

Depending on the type of impact, side airbags could also deploy along with front airbags during frontal collisions at the same speeds that the latter usually deploy.

At What Speed Do Airbags Deploy In A Rear End Collision?

A rear end collision differs from most other types of auto impacts in the way that injury is likely to occur.

When your car gets rear ended, your airbag probably will not deploy because you’re more likely to sustain injury from whiplash, something airbags can do little to prevent.

If you’re the one that’s hitting another car from the back, though, your front airbags will deploy just like they would if you hit a wall or a tree.

This means that you would need to have been driving at a speed above the threshold (8 to 14 mph) before rear ending the other car for the airbags to deploy.

Why Didn’t My Airbag Deploy?

If your airbag failed to deploy when you expected it to, there isn’t necessarily an issue.

Airbags deploy depending on a wide variety of factors that have been fine tuned by the manufacturer to ensure they kick in only when absolutely necessary.

They usually won’t deploy if you were driving below the threshold, as that’s likely to cause more injury than the impact itself.

For example, if you’re driving at about 5 mph (8 km/hr) and you hit a tree, this impact on its own is not likely to hurt you. However, if the airbag is deployed at its usual speed of up to 200 mph (about 322 km/hr) and hits you, then that could be what causes severe injury.

Airbags are also supposed to deploy if your car gets hit when it was stationary but, as previously mentioned, there’s a threshold for the speed of the object that hit you for this reason.

This threshold is higher than it is for a car that’s moving, which may account for your airbag failing to deploy.

The type of impact also determines whether or not your airbag will deploy. If you get rear ended, it probably won’t deploy because it’s meant to protect against inertia that pushes you forward, not whiplash.

Some cars have sensors that detect whether or not you have your seat belt on, and if you do, airbags will not be deployed in crashes where the belt itself is enough to protect you.

Other airbag systems are fitted with sensors that scan the front passenger to determine the risk of deployment.

They could turn it off if the occupant is a child or any other person of small stature sitting too close to the point of deployment.

In a used vehicle, the airbag could fail to deploy if the car was in a previous accident where the airbag was already used but not replaced. Therefore, you should ensure that you always have an airbag installed when you purchase a used car.

What Triggers Airbag Deployment?

What Triggers Airbag Deployment?

Vehicles with airbags have sensors that are designed to detect any sudden and significant drops in speed, which is what happens during an accident.

When they detect an accident, they trigger an explosion that burns chemicals in a process that inflates the airbags in a fraction of a second.

If you want to know more, you can also see our posts on airbag statistics, facts & trends, if airbags can be replaced, and if airbags can deploy in a rear-end collision.

Conclusion

Airbags are designed to deploy at crashes that are equivalent to running into a wall at 8 to 14 mph (around 13 to 23 km/hr) or faster, or 16 to 28 mph (26 to 45 km/hr) for a parked car.

A working airbag system could fail to deploy one if the crash happened below the speed threshold, if there was a child in the front seat, if you had your seat belt on or if it was not replaced after a previous accident.

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