Driver and front passenger seat belts with built-in air bags are being introduced in the Lexus LFA supercar, which is scheduled to start production this month. The new front-seat-belt system inflates on impact to provide extra protection to the shoulder and head area; supplier Takata claims it is the first such system. For rear passengers, Ford recently added inflatable, rear seat belt air bags to the 2011 Explorer.
In the event of a frontal impact, the Takata belt expands directly to spread the shock load over a wider area of the occupant’s chest than a traditional belt. In a side impact, the belt inflates between the shoulder and head to reduce the lateral head movement and provide protection from impact with the side window or the colliding object.
The supplier explains that the seat-belt air bag is safe for passengers of all sizes, including petite women, elderly adults, and children over the age of 8. The air bag belts reel in and out like regular belts and they’re described as comfortable and barely noticeable, though certainly thicker.