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Do Air Bags Deploy When My Car is Rear Ended?

by Kevin Kinder

Air bags are designed to protect motorists and prevent injury in the event of serious automobile crashes. Widely available since the early 1980s, air bags first came about in the early 1950s.

Crash Dynamics

It takes a car crash of considerable impact to cause the vehicle's air bag to deploy. A collision of about 12 to 15 miles per hour (mph) against a solid barrier or about 25 mph against another car will cause activation.

Sensor Placement

Vehicles with air bags have between one and three crash sensors, all of which are located in the front crush zones near the external edge of the bumper. Most air bags are designed to protect the passengers during head-on collisions and are therefore not meant to deploy during rear-end accidents. However, because of the impact dynamics of crashes, air bags rarely activate in rear-end collisions, according to online car resource AA1Car.

Rear-Curtain Air Bags

Some manufacturers make air bags designed specifically to protect motorists during rear-end collisions. These air bags, called rear-curtain or rear curtain shield air bags, protect those in the backseat of a car by deploying from a location behind their heads.

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