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Stricter Airbag Regulation on the Horizon?

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After General Motors’ ignition switch fiasco the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency is looking into other automakers and suppliers to see how their safety equipment would have held up in the same situation . During a hearing before Congress federal safety regulators stated that vehicles’ air bags could work up to sixty seconds after the ignition switch was turned off. General Motors recently came out with a statement, stating that that number is completely wrong, in fact airbags will only remain active up to 150 milliseconds after a vehicle’s power is shut off. The OEM stated that the safety regulators probably misinterpreted their warning for crash responders to wait 60-120 seconds after turning off a car’s power  after a crash to mean that was how long airbags were able to work. The OEM tried to clarify that the 60-120 second wait time was only to protect responders from malfunctioning airbags, not working ones.

From 60 seconds to 150 milliseconds seems like a big difference that just slipped through the safety regulators thought process when trying to set up the regulation of airbags. Currently NHTSA is looking at other OEMs to see what their airbags’ working time limit is after the car’s power is turned off, but I’m not 100% that this is something they could regulate more even if they tried. What would be the correct amount of time for the airbags to work? Having them able to detonate for too long is dangerous too. I’m glad that there is research being done in this area but I’m not really hearing  a solution to the problem.



  1. Jier Qiu
    Jier Qiu

    I think these kind of pushing in safety issue is natural and positive. If the GM never had the issue, it would take NHTSA much longer time to realize the safety measures need to be improved. Although this might jack up the research cost, it is a necessary percussion OEMs need to keep in mind.

    May 15, 2014
  2. Kade Kenlon
    Kade Kenlon

    It makes sense that OEMs want airbags to work after a the car is turned off. In a very serious crash the car may turn off and danger may still loom. I agree that setting a required time for the airbags to still work after a crash would be difficult to determine as too long after the engine turns off could lead to accidental deployment. On the other hand, too short of a deployment time could result in death.

    May 16, 2014
  3. I know local service people who won’t do anything on the steering wheel / instrument panel if there’s an airbag for fear that it will detonate. Emergency workers have the same concern. Ditto passengers if the car has largely stopped, you don’t want the airbag going off just when the vehicle has finally slowed. And detonate is the operative word, the initial inflator manufacturers were rocket and explosive makers, not historic car parts suppliers. If it is to be of value the airbag has to inflate very quickly…

    May 19, 2014

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