The five most important safety functions your windshield performs
Most of us would conclude that
our windshield was a very useful piece of equipment. It
keeps cold and heat; wind and rain; and untold numbers of bugs and
other airborne road debris out of our faces.
The problem is that consumers have different and more limited
expectations from the windshield than the automotive engineer. In
other words, we worry about water leaks or ugly "dings" and cracks
affecting our car's value, while the engineer understands how such
damage can affect the vehicle's structural integrity and passenger
The fact is that the modern automobile and truck, windshield is
part of the vehicle's safety restraint system (SRS) that also
includes air bags and seat belts. If any of these safety components
are damaged, or are inoperable for any reason, the effectiveness of
the entire SRS could be compromised.
The SRS is designed to keep vehicle occupants within the relative
safety of the passenger compartment during accidents, head-on
collisions and roll-overs. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration reports over 40,000 Americans are killed and over 5
million injured every year in highway crashes. Over 30
percentof the fatalities occur when vehicle occupants are
either ejected from the vehicle, or, injured during rollovers.
Windshields are intended to keep occupants inside the vehicle.
The windshield also supports the roof thereby preserving the
structural integrity of the passenger compartment and keeping it
from collapsing and crushing driver and passengers.
Seen from this perspective of personal safety, consumers have a
vested interest in making sure any damaged windshield they replace
is replaced properly and safely. For these reasons every vehicle
owner should be aware of the five most important safety functions
performed by their windshield.
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