How Center-mounted Airbags Work

Is Head Bonking Prevention Important?

How dare you even ask such a thing! Of course head bonking prevention is important, and it happens a lot in side-impact collisions. And there are some terrifying numbers to back it up -- and keep you awake far into the night:

  • Nearly 40 percent of front passenger fatalities in non-rollover crashes are caused by side impacts
  • The head and torso are the most frequently injured body parts in side-impact collisions
  • Engineers call the torso the "thorax," which makes humans sound like insects, which is 48 percent unacceptable
  • When the driver's head is bonked, it's most often against the passenger's head (29 percent of the time), but also against the passenger's body (21.7 percent), and even as far as the passenger door (15 percent)
  • If there is no passenger against which to bonk one's head, the driver will smoosh his torso against the center console 39 percent of the time
  • In each of these scenarios, 100 percent of the occupants were wearing seatbelts, but there was no center-mounted airbag installed in the car

[Source: General Motors]

The statistics can be broken down even further, depending on if the occupant is on the "near side" or "far side" of the crash. The center-mounted airbag is designed to do the most good in a far-side impact, when the crash occurs on the opposite side of the vehicle from the occupant. That's when you're most likely to get tossed sideways like a sailor in a storm.

During testing, GM even went so far as to thrust a big metal pole into a test car as far as the center line of the empty passenger seat. The dummy in the driver's seat tipped all the way over and bonked his head on the pole. You would have to do some radically terrible driving (or be kicked in the passenger door by an AT-AT), to end up in that kind of crash in real life, but if you did, it would probably define the term "bad day."

The good news: A center-mounted airbag can prevent a lot of this type of head-bonking in side-impact crashes.

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