How Does an Airbag Restrain?

In moderate to severe frontal or near frontal collisions, even belted occupants can contact the steering wheel or the instrument panel. In moderate to severe side collisions, even belted occupants can contact the inside of the vehicle.

Airbags supplement the protection provided by safety belts by distributing the force of the impact more evenly over the occupant's body.

But airbags would not help in many types of collisions, primarily because the occupant's motion is not toward those airbags. See When Should an Airbag Inflate? for more information.

Airbags should never be regarded as anything more than a supplement to safety belts.

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