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NHTSA: Side Curtain and Torso airbags by 2013

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NHTSA issues new airbag regulations
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David Shepardson | Detroit News | Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON -- Motorists will be protected by both head and torso side airbags by 2013, under a new regulation adopted today.

The rule unveiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires automakers to install side curtain and side torso airbags by Sept. 1, 2013. It goes beyond what automakers pledged to do in 2003, when they voluntarily agreed to install side head airbags -- but not side torso airbags.

The 291-page regulation will save more than 300 lives per year and 260 serious injuries per year -- a smaller estimate than when NHTSA initially proposed upgrading the standard in 2004. That's because by 2013 all vehicles will be required to have anti-rollover technology, called electronic stability control.

NHTSA rejected most requests by automakers to water down the testing requirement for the new side impact standards. It left in place a requirement to use a smaller crash-test dummy that better represents a short woman driver and kept a proposed new pole-crash test.

NHTSA said the regulation will essentially require "a two-sensor-per-vehicle window curtain and separate thorax side air bag system."

Complying with the regulation will add $243 per vehicle, but NHTSA says based on reviewing automakers' product plans, the new requirements will only add $33 per vehicle, or $560 million a year, to what the car companies were planning to do anyway.

"With these rigorous new regulations, we are building on the strength of innovative and lifesaving side-impact technologies that are already available to new car drivers," said NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason.

Automakers in 2003 agreed to add side airbags to all vehicles by Sept. 1, 2009. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group that represents the Detroit Three, Toyota and five other major automakers, noted they have been committed to installing side airbags.

"This is another instance where automakers were ahead of the curve on safety. Automakers saw the safety benefits from side air bags, and even though there were no requirements to install side air bags in vehicles, we have already put them in 84 percent of new autos," said Dave McCurdy, the alliance's CEO. "Alliance members believe this final rule will allow automakers to continue with the industry-initiated, voluntary agreement to install side air bags in all vehicles by Sept. 1, 2009."

The group also praised the new rule. "Safety is the industry's number one priority. We commend NHTSA for its thorough review and analysis of the scientific data to ensure that the final rule will protect drivers and passengers in real-world conditions," McCurdy said.

The new rule will do much for head protection -- noting that 41 percent of deaths in side impact crashes are from head injuries. The new requirement will reduce the fatality risk by 24 percent.

The requirement goes beyond what automakers had volunteered, which was to install side airbags in vehicles weighing 8,500 pounds or less. NHTSA will require the heaviest vehicles weighing more than that to have the head/side air bag combination by Sept. 1, 2013. Smaller vehicles must have them by Sept. 1, 2012.

When NHTSA proposed upgrading side protection standards in May 2004, it said it hoped to have the final rules in place by 2005. That delay drew criticism from the previous NHTSA administrator, Jeffrey Runge.
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Most manufacturers are voluntarily using them anyway, because there's no way to get a "good" IIHS side rating without them.

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Automakers should voluntarily already have this in place because safety is not a big consideration. All of the mid-size family sedans have at least 6 airbags standards. The biggest complaint I have about my vehicles is that neither of them have 6 airbags. The Corvette is missing the head airbags and the Av is missing the thorax side air bags?

I am curious as to how convertibles and cars like the Corvette will do a head curtain air bag? You can't add them to the roof because of weight (to hardtop convertibles) and structure issues for softtops. I think they should have a large airbag deploy out from the inside A-pillar. This will make the A-pillar thicker and add weight and complexity, but automakers certainly have the technology to reduce weight elsewhere.

I wonder who will be first to introduce a curtain air bag for a convertible?

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Automakers should voluntarily already have this in place because safety is not a big consideration. All of the mid-size family sedans have at least 6 airbags standards. The biggest complaint I have about my vehicles is that neither of them have 6 airbags. The Corvette is missing the head airbags and the Av is missing the thorax side air bags?

I am curious as to how convertibles and cars like the Corvette will do a head curtain air bag? You can't add them to the roof because of weight (to hardtop convertibles) and structure issues for softtops. I think they should have a large airbag deploy out from the inside A-pillar. This will make the A-pillar thicker and add weight and complexity, but automakers certainly have the technology to reduce weight elsewhere.

I wonder who will be first to introduce a curtain air bag for a convertible?

They're usually mounted on the top of the doors.

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"Mandatory extra weight via more safety features while increasing CAFE!!!!"

If there's one thing that's absoultely killing the domestics, its the goverment's constant f@#king meddling.

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"Mandatory extra weight via more safety features while increasing CAFE!!!!"

If there's one thing that's absoultely killing the domestics, its the goverment's constant f@#king meddling.

Exactly, they're burning the domestics at both ends by forcing them to strive for higher standards in terms of fuel economy and then to add weight with useless safety like this. I mean really its only saving 560 people from death or serious injury a year, thats 12.5 times less people than those that are killed by medication errors in hospitals per year. Its almost as bad as the parents in NJ who are trying to pass legislation to ban metal bats in little league because 13 kids have been killed since 1991 in NJ by balls that were hit off of metal bats. Both are just wastes of our tax dollars.
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