The airbag system is also called the supplementary restraint system (SRS) or the supplemental inflatable restraint (SIR), and acts as a secondary line of defense against injury in a crash. The primary restraint system is the seat belt.

In the event of a car accident airbags are designed to protect the passengers from injury… Unless the aren’t functioning properly, or the passengers have not taken the appropriate precautions.

So, what can you do to ensure that your airbags provide the protection they’re designed to provide?

Sit in the Right Place

Airbags, especially those in the front seat, are built for the average adult. Airbags in the front seat deploy at the wrong height and with more force than children below a certain height and weight can safely withstand.

Children are safest when seated in the back or center of the vehicle in the appropriate child safety seat. These seats help provide extra protection in a collision, especially for infants. In a collision, they can prevent injury cause by an airbag, in addition to injuries caused by the crash.

Adults, even in the front seat, should sit as far back as possible while still having access to the brake, steering wheel, and accelerator. Sitting far from the front of the vehicle means it’s less likely that the airbag will hit with too much force or that the passenger will come into contact with the dash.

Wear a Seatbelt

Airbag safety for kids means staying in the backseat, but airbag safety for any vehicle passenger means wearing a seatbelt. Airbags are the secondary restraint system (which is why some dashboard warning lights say SRS). Seatbelts are much more effective at preventing an injury in a crash.

Listen to Your Warning Lights

Every time the engine starts, the crash sensors, which let the airbags know when to deploy, are checked. If, when the vehicle starts, the airbag warning light remains on, there might be something wrong with the system. It is never safe to drive a vehicle without properly functioning airbags, so if you notice the airbag warning light, always have a professional inspect the vehicle as soon as possible.

After a Collision, Have Airbags Inspected

Airbags that are deployed during a crash are not designed to be reused, and without airbags, the safety of the vehicle is compromised even if everything else is in proper working order. Airbag systems, including the crash sensors, should be inspected and replaced by an authorized repair center following a collision.

Work with Your Repair Technician

When it comes to your safety and the safety of others on the road, there is no room for shortcuts. Always have a professional inspect your airbag system after a crash, or if it is not working right.

Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) in your Vehicle

srs-lightThe supplemental restraint system, or SRS, in your vehicle does exactly what its name implies: it supplements the restraint, or seatbelt, system. In the case of a collision, the primary function of the supplemental restraint system is to deploy airbags, although modern systems may initiate other actions, like reclining the driver and passenger seatbacks into a safer position or releasing curtains to protect occupants from broken glass when windows shatter.

When a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object, the airbag sensor signals the airbag to open. At the very least, a vehicle has one airbag in front of the driver and one for the passenger, but many vehicles have additional side airbags or rear airbags to further protect the vehicle’s occupants.

Your SRS Warning Light

On the dashboard, your vehicle has warning lights that are tested every time the vehicle starts. When a light remains on after the first 10 seconds or so when the vehicle is started, it’s a sign that there is an error with a system in your vehicle. The SRS system light will either say “SRS” or it will be an image of a person wearing a seatbelt with an airbag expanded in front of them.

If your light remains on and there is an error with the system, your airbags may not deploy in the case of a collision and you should have your vehicle examined as soon as possible. In some cases, if your insurance company can determine that there was an error in the vehicle that kept the system from functioning properly and the vehicle owner failed to have it taken care of, the insurance company may not pay for medical bills that result from a crash.

SRS Testing and Functionality Following a Collision

If your vehicle has been in a collision, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your SRS is functioning properly.
1. Check whether the airbags or any other safety features have been activated. This can include airbags, seat belt retractors, curtains, etc.
2. If you can, start the vehicle. Check for the SRS light. It should illuminate for a few seconds and then turn off. If it does not illuminate or if it remains on, your system may not be working properly.
3. Examine your seat belts. Pull every seat belt out all the way and look for signs of wear, like tears or strange sounds.
4. Buckle the seatbelts and ensure that all buckles still work.
5. If your vehicle has a passenger weight sensor, sit in the passenger seat to test whether it is functioning.
6. If you are unsure about any of these steps, notice any wear or malfunctioning parts, or there is a problem with your SRS, take your vehicle to a collision repair shop.