THE FUNCTIONS OF THE AIRBAG
The airbag is an inflatable bag used to limit the forces of an impact to the head and the thorax during a crash. For it to be effective it must inflate and be deployed before the body has moved appreciably, very soon after impact, this means within micro- seconds (0.03 seconds) it must inflate. Therefore the bag has to fire at 200km/hr. making the wearing of a seatbelt indispensable to reducing the speed of our body when it hits the airbag; otherwise it can cause injury.
HOW DOES THIE AFFECT CHILDREN
For a baby or a child that is not properly supported in their corresponding child-restraining device and is too close to the airbag at the moment it opens, the front airbag poses a serious risk to their health. Since it is designed for an adult using a seatbelt, the airbag could have catastrophic consequences for an unrestrained child. If the child is properly supported in a child seat, the airbag poses no additional risk. Some studies even suggest that the airbag can improve protection of children, so long as they are adequately and correctly restrained.
The only exceptions are the child seats for babies facing backwards: this type of seat is totally incompatible with front airbags, as the child seats are placed too close to the airbag.
As remedy for this incompatibility between airbags and baby seats facing backwards it is necessary to deactivate the front passenger airbag when the baby is in a seat from group 0 or 0+ placed in the front passenger seat. If the airbag cannot be deactivated manually, you must ask the manufacturer using their helpline or contact the official dealership to see if they are able to deactivate it.
Anyway, for better safety of the children this basic advice may help. First, in general, except when the baby or child needs constant medical supervision (perhaps with respiratory problems), the back seat is safer than the front: whenever possible to avoid risk, always seat the child in their child seat on the back seats of the vehicle.
The second bit of advice is that should a child ever have to travel in a child seat in the front with an active airbag, adjust the car seat as far back as possible. Remember if the airbag is active you can NEVER use a backward facing seat (only a forward facing one for older children)
At the MAPFRE FOUNDATION we recommend that the smallest children always travel on the back seats, where they are safer and will only be affected by the lateral airbags or curtains, they don’t inflate with such force and so are less dangerous to them.