By 1994, every new car produced in America will be required to have a passive restraint system - either automatic seat belts or airbags.

Airbags are becoming increasingly popular - already driver airbags are installed in every Mercedes and every Chrysler produced in the United States. They are also being installed in select vehicles from Honda, BMW, Ford, Nissan, Isuzu, Jaguar, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Volkswagen, Volvo, Mazda, General Motors, Saab, Opal, Audi and other manufacturers. And airbags are increasingly being installed on the passenger side as well.Airbags are popular because they work, says Larry K. Hansen, marketing manager of the Automotive Safety Products Group of Morton International. (The Ogden-based company is one of the world's leading producers of airbags.)

"I'm absolutely convinced they work," Hansen told the group at a recent League of Utah Consumers meeting. "I have talked to people who have survived amazing crashes because of the airbags."

Research has shown, he says, that airbags, used with lap and shoulder belts, significantly reduce injury in front and front-angle collisions. (This kind of accident accounts for half of all car-crash deaths.)

Because airbags are a relatively new product, however, many consumers are unsure of just how they work. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions:

Q. How does the airbag work?

A. The airbag is part of an inflatable restraint system. The system consists of crash sensors, certain diagnostic equipment and a module, containing an inflator or gas generator and an airbag. The crash sensors located in the front of the car detect rapid deceleration and trigger airbag activation at impact velocities within a certain range. The sensors send an electrical signal, which activates the inflation process. Like a light bulb, the initiator contains a thin wire that heats up. The heat sets off a pyrotechnic chain igniting the gas generant. A nitrogen gas is produced and goes through a filtering process and into the bag, forcing open the horn pad cover in the center of the steering wheel.

All this takes only milliseconds. The bag is fully inflated for only one-tenth of a second. The bag is nearly deflated by three-tenths of a second after impact.

Q. Does having the airbag mean seat belts are no longer needed?

A. Safety belts will continue to be a major factor in any restraint system. The seat belt holds the occupant securely in place. This is important in a collision in which the impact is on the side of the car or if you are hit from the rear. The airbag provides effective protection in frontal crashes, where the airbag cushions occupants with the big air-filled pillow.

Q. Are airbags guaranteed for a certain length of time?

A. Morton International currently ties its warranty period to the one the car manufacturer gives the buyer for the car, usually five to seven years.

Q. How do I know that the airbag definitely will inflate during a head-on collision?

A. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, airbags are the most thoroughly tested vehicle safety device ever designed. Research has been going on since 1968. No failures have been recorded.

Q. Could the airbag inflate when it shouldn't?

A. To ensure that airbags don't deploy in minor fender benders, most sensors are designed to detect impacts and duration of event to filter out "non-accidents." The record is excellent; there have been no documented cases of airbags going off at the wrong time.

Q. What if the driver is smoking or wearing eye glasses? Can the airbag cause injuries?

A. Government studies of 1,000 crashes showed no reports of such injuries.

Q. Will there be a loud noise when the airbag inflates?

A. Yes, there is a loud noise, but crash survivors repeatedly report that they did not hear it. This is probably because other events such as the collision are occurring so rapidly and noisily.

Q. After an accident in which the airbag has inflated, how do I get it fixed?

A. The airbag would need to be replaced during the course of repairing the rest of the car's damage.

Q. During a collision when the airbag is inflating, will it block my vision or pin me in my car?

A. The bag inflates only when the crash sensors trigger activation, within milliseconds after impact. The airbag begins to deflate as the driver's upper torso contacts the bag during crash deceleration.

Q. Could the driver be hurt by falling into the airbag?

A. The airbag acts as a soft pillow to protect the fragile parts of the human body, the head and face, from what experts call the second collision, that is, when the driver hits the steering column and windshield. The airbag is already deflating as the driver is falling into it.

Q. Is it really air that is filling the airbag or is it chemicals? Is there any chance of leakage?

A. The airbags fill with nitrogen, a non-toxic gas. Seventy-eight percent of the air we breathe is nitrogen. The nitrogen is produced by the ignition of a chemical compound, sodium azide, which is the best method found to date to inflate an airbag. Sodium azide is toxic but is sealed within the airbag system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agrees that questions about the use of sodium azide have been resolved to its satisfaction.


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Some TLC for your garbage disposal

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for garbage disposal servicemen. All the cooking and cleaning can put a strain on kitchen drains and disposal systems. Service calls are often the result.

A little extra TLC may help you prevent problems. Here are some suggestions from Roto-Rooter, one of the country's largest sewer and drain cleaning services:

- NEVER put stringy, fibrous waste such as poultry skins, carrots, artichokes, celery or banana peels into the garbage disposal. These items do not grind up thoroughly and can cause problems with your drain and damage your disposal.

- DO NOT overload the disposal by filling it with waste first and then turning it on. Instead, let the cold water run through the drain while running the waste through a little bit at a time.

- ALWAYS run cold water for at least 15-20 seconds before and after you use your garbage disposal so a sufficient volume of water can flush the waste down the main line.

- NEVER attempt to sharpen your disposal blades by putting items such as broken glass, marbles or large bones through the system. Such hard materials can cause severe damage to the unit. Many disposals do not have blades but rather a series of hard steel knobs that "beat" the garbage rather than "cut" it. If either the blades or knobs are nicked, then soft, stringy material tends to wrap around the gouges and clog the disposal.

- AVOID one of the worst enemies of your drain - grease. Only small amounts of grease (no more than a couple of tablespoons) can be safely washed down the drain with plenty of water and with other solid materials. Larger amounts of grease should be poured into a container and discarded with other trash. Grease builds up a coating on pipes leading to serious clogs.

- DO NOT use your garbage disposal for all your food waste. Rather than throwing it away or sending it through the garbage disposal, you can easily begin a compost pile. Using your disposal adds solids to an already overloaded sewer system. To find out more about composting, contact your local library or gardening center, or the USU Extension Service.


(Additional information)

Send your holiday packages early

Getting your holiday packages overseas on time may require some extra coordination this year. Equipping Desert Shield has placed an extra burden on U.S. air and shipping industries, and the normal surge of holiday mail will add to the volume.

The advice of Salt Lake Postmaster Kenneth R. Prentiss is: mail early. Mailing before the overseas holiday deadlines this year will give the Postal Service extra time to arrange transportation. Each year, the Postal Service issues holiday mailing deadlines for holiday letters and parcels headed overseas (see chart). These are the latest dates you can mail by and be certain packages will arrive for the holidays. Mailing before the deadline will offer added insurance.

There is no deadline for mail sent to U.S. addresses, but getting things on their way early in December can offer a hedge against delays caused by winter storms, says Prentiss.

Whether you use the Postal Service or one of the other delivery services, how you package your material can be an important factor in getting it there on time andin good condition.

Here are some tips from the experts at PAK MAIL:

- Addresses: be sure to include the receiver's complete address, including zip codes (even if it is not sent by mail) and apartment numbers, if applicable. It's a good idea to tuck the address inside the package as well, just in case the outside address is damaged.

- Packing material: Use environmentally safe, recyclable plastic loosefill, if possible, to completely surround breakable items. Also, use a box large enough to allow for adequate cushioning on all sides - at least two inches.

Foam wrap (sheets of plastic foam), bubble wrap (clear, bubble-filled plastic material) and peanuts (small pieces of plastic foam) are common inner-packing materials. Peanuts need to be packed tightly to prevent movement of the item inside the box. Popped popcorn (without the butter and salt) also makes a good packing material. Newspaper is not recommended.

- Boxes: To survive the rigors of holiday shipping, use corrugatedboxes in good, rigid condition.

- Wrapping: Do not wrap packages in brown paper. Wrappings can become caught in conveyor systems and will separate the paper and mailing label from your package. But be sure to remove any address information on the box other than your receiver's address

- Tapes and string. Use packaging tape, not cellophane or masking tape. Tape over the top and bottom seams and then tape over the edges of the carton. Do not use string, which can also get caught in machinery.

Christmas mailing deadlines

Destination Air Parcels Air letters Parcel Airlift Space Available

& Priority & Cards (PAL) Mail (SAM)

Africa Nov. 20 Dec. 1 Nov. 9 Oct. 26

Alaska -- -- -- Dec. 1

Australia Nov. 16 Dec. 1 Dec. 1 Dec. 1

Caribbean Dec. 7 Dec. 7 Nov. 23 Nov. 19

Europe Dec. 1 Dec. 1 Nov. 24 Nov. 13

Far East Dec. 1 Dec. 1 Nov. 15 Nov. 15

Greenland Dec. 1 Dec. 1 Nov. 24 Nov. 13

Middle East Nov. 16 Nov. 26 Nov. 10 Nov. 3

Southeast Asia Nov. 16 Nov. 19 Nov. 9 Nov. 2

Central &

South America Dec. 1 Dec. 6 Nov. 23 Nov. 9

Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL) is overseas military mail shipped entirely by air. Space Available Mail (SAM) is overseas mail shipped by a combination of surface and air transportation. Both are transported overseas on a space available basis.

Mailers in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Trust Territories should ensure that Christmas mail en route to other countries is available in the continental United States by the dates listed above.