Airbag & Helmet Interaction

Airbag & Helmet Interaction

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AIMSS was recently asked to investigate and provide advice on what effect the use of safety helmets by vehicle occupant/s may have on correct airbag function in passenger vehicles fitted with such. Along with information provided by our own Dr. Michael Henderson, AIMSS worked with research partner the FIA Institute to provide more on this topic.

In essence the information sought centred around whether any reputable testing had been done to determine whether, given it’s mass and shape, a helmet would impact on the effectiveness and deployment of the airbag?

This helmet/airbag compatibility issue had been raised many years ago with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), issuing an advisory note in 2004, which was later withdrawn as a result of further research carried out by the FIA Institute in 2005. The Institute retained Hubert Gramling, a former Mercedes-Benz engineer intimately involved in the design and development of airbags for the Mercedes-Benz company.

Gramling concluded from his research that the use of both full-face and open-face helmets may be regarded as compatible with airbag deployment.



In Australia specifically, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) has remained appropriately fluid on the issue of airbags in competing cars for some time, and offer further information on this topic…

“While CAMS does not normally restrict the use of air bags in production type cars used in motor sport, there are occasions where the additional passive restraint safety systems mandated (ie: competition harnesses), for race cars in particular, are considered to be an appropriate enhancement of the risk control (and driver injury minimisation) system to warrant the removal of the SRS airbag, particularly those in the steering wheels.

With the advent of curtain side airbags and passenger airbags, instruments and navigational gear (particularly as fitted to rally cars) can hamper the deployment of airbags.

Competitors should carefully consider the location of additional, non-standard devices in competition cars where they could interfere with the path of deploying air bags.

In all cases however, if an active (charged) air bag does not deploy in a collision over the mandated SRS deployment speed, great care must always be taken in disarming or deactivating the SRS air bag system and until the system is deactivated,  or the occupant is removed, rescue personnel should attend to their own safety in the first instance by wearing eye protection and by not placing themselves or any part of their body in the path of any un-deployed airbag”.


(Read the full story here, including data reports and videos)

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