Your Windshield Spells Safety

Commonly, we think our windshields are just pieces of materials that protect us from extreme cold and heat outside, wind, rain, debris and insects but its more than that. Compared to automotive engineers, car owners have very limited knowledge on how a windshield really functions. While consumers worry about leaks, bugs, cracks that visibly damage our vehicles, the engineers concern are more of protecting our vehicles structural integrity and consumer safety.

The windshield is part of a vehicle’s safety restraint system (SRS). This safety system also includes air bags and seat belts. If one of this equipment is damaged or is not functioning properly, the function of the whole system is in question posing danger to its passengers.

The SRS system encloses and restrains passengers inside the vehicle in events like head-on collisions and rollovers. According to statistics from the National Traffic Safety Administration, more than 40,000 Americans died and more than 5 million were injured from highway crashes every year. Of these casualties, more than 30 percent were due to vehicle occupants ejected from the vehicle or are injured during rollovers.

Aside from protecting passengers from elements outside the vehicle, the windshields also supports the roof thereby preserving the function of the passenger compartment ad preventing it from collapsing and crushing the driver and his passengers.

To add to the common information about your windshields, here are its five most important functions from carcare.org:

• The most obvious windshield function is, of course, visibility. Unlike drivers of old, we do not wear goggles that keep bugs out of our eyes or highway debris from hitting our face. Even so, the modern windshield can become pitted and scratched from minute dirt and sand particles. Pebbles and stones can fracture the glass causing dings that, if left unattended, can affect vision.

• The second windshield function is not as obvious. In many cars and trucks, the windshield supports the passenger side airbag during deployment. If a windshield is replaced improperly, the windshield could become detached from the vehicle in an accident. If this happens, the passenger side airbag will not deploy properly.

• Thirdly, windshields cushion the blow if a vehicle occupant is thrown forward in a crash. Windshields are made of two layers of glass sandwiched around a layer of polyvinyl material. The glass may break but the polyvinyl layer is flexible and cushions the impact. This feature explains why windshields are made of glass not plastic. Plastic is rigid and unforgiving to a person’s head and neck.

• The fourth windshield safety attribute is closely related to the third. When the windshield cushions the occupants’ impact, it also keeps the occupants within the relative safety of the passenger compartment. If the windshield becomes separated from the vehicle, the occupants could be ejected through the windshield opening and onto the roadway. Outside the vehicle, the danger of being crushed by the vehicle is greatly enhanced.

• Finally, there is the integrity of the passenger compartment. Years ago, most vehicles had steel A-pillars to support the roof. Today, it is the windshield that provides much of the support that prevents the roof’s collapse during vehicle roll-overs.

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