Side Airbags: Requirement for All 2013 Vehicles

By: Evander Klum

Last Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued new protective rules that require all 2013 model vehicles to be equipped with side airbags. The new rule takes effect on September 2012. The US government wants added protection for its motorists in connection to the side impact crashes which have become so prevalent, causing death to thousands of passengers and drivers and leaving others with debilitating brain injuries.

Deliberate review of the upgrade had been on going since 2004. With standard side airbags, deaths and injuries from side blows and crashes are expected to decline. In the year 2005, side impact crashes caused 9,200 American deaths.

As estimated by the NHTSA, the upgraded safety system can save 311 lives and at the same time prevent 361 injuries. Side airbags can protect the passenger's chest and abdomen and the window curtain airbags aims to prevent head injuries.

"Even people who survive the crash can end up with long-term medical costs and permanent brain injuries, so we think (the rules) are important for both injuries and fatalities," said Nicole Nason, NHTSA administrator in a statement.

In 2003, the auto industry guaranteed side air bags installation in all their vehicles by September 2009. Aside from that, this additional safety vehicle feature had been widely available since then. The government together with the automakers is fiercely working for the safety of all American motorists.

According to Dave McGurdy, head of Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers that represents General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Toyota Motor Co (maker of )., said that they share NHTSA's goal of "enhancing head protection" in side crashes.

With additional $33, the head protection will be standard among vehicles starting the year 2010 and will require full compliance by the 2013 model year.

There is no specific technology required for the phase-in head protection. But most probably, the automaker will be using side curtain airbags and air bags for chest and abdomen protection. The air bags combination is already standard in almost half of the 2008 vehicle models.

Also included in the rule, the new cars with the phase-in head protection will undergo a series of tests. One is a test that plays a vehicle hitting a tree or a pole on the driver's side. The rest are tests involving small woman dummies and another crash test with a more technologically advanced male dummy of average height.

For Gerald Donaldson, the Senior Research Director for Advocates for Highway and auto Safety, the rule will provide more focus on head injuries of motorists in the back seat and would take into consideration a variety of people. On the contrary, he also said that the rule failed to protect the older motorists.

Last year, a research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that there had been a 52 percent reduction in driver deaths in SUVs with head protecting side air bags. For passenger vehicles, there had been a notable 37 percent reduction.

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