What is it like when an airbag explodes in your face (and after)

What does the bag feel like when it explodes and when your face hits it? How does it smell? What does the fabric feel like? How loud was it? What did you feel like after the bag exploded?

It’s like getting punched in the face and never seeing it coming. When it happened to me my immediate reaction was “wtf?”. Then i looked around and realized i was in a little fender-bender and the airbag deployed. Also, it can leave a little rash/redness and cause a pretty big mess in your car.

I was a passenger in a car that only had a driver’s side airbag (remember them?). We hit some ice and hit a tree. I was fine, but the girl driving said it felt like someone slapped her as hard as they could. She was a bit dazed and looked as though she had been whacked in the face with a fish.

A friend was in a pretty bad wreck where he hit a tree in I-95 and the airbag deployed (and he broke his ankle, and the car caught on fire.) He had what looked like a bad sunburn from the dust from the airbag, plus a pretty nasty cut on his forehead.

I got a scratch on my forearm when my airbag went off during my total wreck this past June. I was all WTF? the instant it exploded, but then I realized that yeah, I had just been in a serious crach. Until the bag popped, I’d been in the “control it, steer out of it, concentrate” phase. When I got it that the air bag went off, there was no longer anything I might do.

This phase lasted a few months, as I tried to accept how close I’d come to getting myself killed.

It’s very loud and immediately covers everything in the car with fine dust, you included. It has a very strong, acrid smell that I can’t quite describe. I wasn’t going very fast and was buckled in on impact so the bag didn’t hit my face, but the bag broke a bone in the center of my hand that required surgery two days later. If it had hit my face or body it could have very easily broken my nose, ribs and teeth. The passenger airbag shattered the windshield. The metal coffee cup I had in the other hand sounded like it was hit by a hammer and went flying into the back seat. If it had hit me in the face that also would have been very bad.

The accident we were in, my FiL must have put his forearm up to protect himself, forgetting about the airbag.

HUGE bruises, from wrist to elbow - big bummer since he was leaving on a golf holiday within a day or two and couldn’t swing a club.

I was in a slow speed crash into a telephone pole. I attempted to steer out of the slide (on ice), but when it was obvious that I was going to hit, I crossed my arms in front of my face. The airbag deployment was very loud and there was lots of powder, but I didn’t feel a significant hit from the bag itself. There was a slight burning smell, too. No obvious injuries from the bag.

Well, let me be the first to say that I had a thoroughly pleasant airbag-deploying experience. Essentially, my car went from a high speed to a complete stop very quickly, and when I could see that I was going to crash, I remember thinking to myself “Dear god please let the airbag deploy.” The airbag cushioned what would otherwise have been the seatbelt placing a tremendous amount of pressure on a concentrated area of skin.

There was that powder and odd smell; I don’t really remember the sound of the airbag because it coincided with the sound of my car coming to a sudden stop. I’m pretty short (5’3"), but I don’t remember being hit in the face. I was wearing glasses which flew off my face and were never found. But considering the alternative (having them break in my face), I’m not complaining. I do not recall any redness or bruising associated with the airbag.

It was like someone snapped my face with a rubber band all over for an instant and it smelled like what the ashes might smell like if it were possible to burn the air in a chemistry lab. The only injuries I came away with were two rug burns, one on the inside of each arm where the airbag had abraded my skin as it deployed.

I don’t remember the actual deployment of the air bag; just “OMG OMG OMG,” then impact, then looking at the deflated bag in front of me. No injuries. “Acrid” is a good way to describe the smell. It was a cold day, but I couldn’t sit in the car until the cops showed up because the stink was so bad.

I was hit on the drivers side (front quarterpanel, not a t-bone) by a minivan doing around 50 MPH (I was going about 5 MPH).

I never saw them coming, and my only experience was a sudden, loud bang from the impact. One minute I was starting to make a left turn, the next I was in a wreck in the middle of the intersection with a deflated bag in my lap. Never felt a thing. Never smelt a thing, either. 1994 Volvo V70, for the record.

However…my glasses were missing, and my right hand ached. Turns out the glasses were knocked off my head and flew out the sunroof. Before being knocked off my head, however, the left lens dug slightly into the eyeball, causing a tear and slight detachment of the retina. Two surgeries later I’m legally blind in that eye.

The right hand had a fractured bone, probably caused by the force coming up the steering column from the impact.

I was going to ask, How does the airbag impact play with drivers/passengers who are wearing eyeglasses? But I see that postcards has just touched on that subject.

Was postcards lucky there? Could it have been much worse? Is there a significant danger that an airbag deployment to the face could shove your glasses right into your eyeballs, rendering them one with your retinas?

Sounds painful.

Given the number of drivers wearing eyeglasses and sunglasses if this was a real risk I’d wager you would have heard about it. It’s far more likely for the frame to crack and the lenses to drop out than for the lenses themselves to shatter.

While I have never been in a car that had a deployment, I have taught this stuff and I have deployed hundreds of bags that were being scrapped. (and yes blowing up airbags for an entire morning is fun)
First off is speed, these things come out damn quick. Two hundred MPH is a figure I often see cited as to the speed of the bag deployment.
Second is noise, they are loud. In the overall accident you might not notice the noise by when deployed by themselves, they are LOUD.
New bags are depowered compared to the earlier bags due to changes in the regulations. Also as technology marches on, staged deployment bags are becoming more common. Some car makers even have a system that opens extra vents to soften the bags even more for very short drivers and passengers (system reads the position of the seat and powers the system way down if the seat is almost all the way forward)
The bag is larger than the steering wheel in order to blow your hands off the wheel so that the seat belt and the airbag absorb the energy of the accident, not your neck from being braced against the steering wheel. Unfortunately having your hands blown off the wheel can lead to injuries, particularly to the driver’s left hand (hits the door panel /window)
The bag is packed with either talc or corn starch to help it unfold, that is the powder or dust that gets commented on. If you are wearing short sleeves the bag rubbing against your arms coupled with the talc/cornstarch can lead to contact dermatitis. (rug burns) You might have your watch blown off of your wrist, or have scratches as it slides up your arm at Mach 3. Same with bracelets.
Glasses might get blown off of your head, the frame get broken, or bent. I have never heard of a lens breaking, but I suppose it is possible. Don’t forget if not for the airbag, your face would probably be contacting the steering wheel which could easily be much less forgiving than the airbag.
BTW I once asked some airbag engineers about a guy smoking a pipe. They didn’t directly answer me, but I got the distinct feeling that that guy would be starring in a new remake of the movie deep throat. :eek:

When I was hit with an airbag, it happened far too fast for the impact to really register. Try to imagine being punched in the face but all you get is that sore feeling on your face afterward and you don’t actually experience the getting punched part. I was wearing prescription sunglasses at the time, the frames completely broke and the lenses fell out without shattering.

When mine went, I had the misfortune/fortune of seeing it coming, as it were. I knew I was going to hit, and I was pretty certain that I was fast enough for it to blow, but didn’t have enough time to do anything about it.

I was just over the threshold for it to go, and it was easily louder than the other sounds of the crash.

It smelled like burning dust (like a central heating unit when it turns on in the fall for the first time in months) and it rug-burned one hand and my cheeks. My glasses stayed on, and stayed in place, but I got interesting bruises where my nose-pads were. It also failed to move my right hand *downward *out of the way, but sent it instead straight into my forehead in front of the expanding airbag, which wasn’t pleasant. Giant goose egg there on my head, and cracked knuckles to add insult to injury.

It made me feel dazed, because in addition to the crunch and velocity shifts of a wreck, you’ve also just got hit in the face pretty solidly. I remember that I sat there stunned long enough for other drivers to start worriedly trying to get my doors open to get to me, thinking I was badly hurt. I wasn’t, just really out of it.

I read somewhere that American airbags were a lot more “violent” than European airbags because of far less Americans wearing seatbelts. Is that true? If it’s not true, was it ever true?

I have to say that if I’m risking trouble to my glasses from airbag I might just disable the thing as I always wear a seatbelt. Speaking of seatbelts, I’m just off to start a thread in IMHO because I remembered something.

I heard they can cause broken arms if your arm is over it, is that true?
Also, I’ve heard they inflate AND deflate faster than the blink of an eye, is that true? So you hardly even see the inflated airbag?

I doubt you could break an arm, but if you had your hand stuck in wheel (some steering wheels have a small space between the spokes that a hand would fit in) I would expect injuries to you hand or wrist.
Yes the are fast you never see it coming. Between the speed and the sound you will probably flinch and not even see it inflated. I have heard of complaints to the car maker that the bad did not inflate at all, it just fell out of the steering wheel. Then the driver is shown the evidence of their face plant into the bag.