Authored by Allan M. Siegel
Side impact collisions have long been a trouble area among vehicle engineers. In a head-on vehicle collision, the entire engine block acts a crumple zone and provides a protective space between the colliding vehicle and the occupant. In a side impact collision, there is nearly no crumple zone. The door is the only thing between the colliding vehicle and the occupant. In recent years, vehicle engineers have designed stiffer side and roof structures, called safety cages, to dissipate the force of the collision away from the occupant. In combination with these redesigned safety cages, side airbags have proven to be the most effective method of improving a vehicle's safety in a side impact collision. Side impact air bags are available in three designs depending on the manufacture. Mid level bags mounted in the door or seat, head and mid level bags mounted in the door or seat, and full curtains mounted in the roof rail. The full curtain versions have also proven very effective in reducing partial and complete ejections.
In past years, the statistics on side airbags were impaired by the testing standard's inability to calculate real world scenarios, such as the higher bumper of an SUV striking the door of a car. New testing standards take into account such real world data, and will be in full implementation for the 2015 model year cars. All consumers in the market for a new car should take into consideration the effectiveness and design of the side impact airbags of their potential vehicles choices.