Car Safety Features - Curtain Airbags

Car Safety Features - Curtain Airbags

Curtain airbags are designed to protect the driver's and passenger's heads in a crash.

How do they work?

The curtain airbag activates as soon as a car is involved in a side impact crash. The airbags deploy from the top of the door rails above the side windows. They form a cushion between the driver or passenger and the window and stay in place even if the car rolls over.

Why do I need them?

Research from the USA estimates that head protecting airbags can reduce driver deaths in the event of a side impact crash  by close to 40%*. Without them, in a side impact crash there is little to protect your head from striking the side of the car or solid objects like trees or poles. 

How are curtain airbags different to other types of airbags?

Curtain airbags are one type of head protecting side airbag. There are other kinds too, such as combination head and torso designs.

Combination head and torso airbags mostly activate from the seat, but some types deploy from the door, offering you good protection to both head and body in side impact crashes. However, combination designs are less effective than curtain airbags in rollover crashes.

Most people have heard of driver airbags (or frontal airbags). While these come as standard in many cars, they do not protect you in a side impact crash.  Also, side airbags without the combination of head/torso design only protect the chest and thorax area, not the head.

How dangerous are side impact crashes?

Side impact crashes at intersections account for about 22% of all major crash types where people are killed or seriously injured.

Which cars have curtain airbags?

The availability of curtain airbags has increased significantly. The number of new vehicles sold in Victoria with curtain airbags has risen from 24% in 2006 to 64% in early 2011.

*Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (2006) Side Airbags are reducing driver deaths in both cars and SUVs.  Status Report Vol. 41, No.8