September 6, 2007

U.S. government to mandate head protection measures in vehicles by 2009

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters announced new side impact safety requirements for all passenger vehicles sold in the U.S.A. It is expected that the upgrade, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will save hundreds of lives every year. The new standard requires auto manufacturers – for the first time ever – to provide head protection in side-impact crashes. It also would enhance other protections for passengers involved in such crashes.

Side impact crashes account for 28 percent of all fatalities in the U.S., the majority of which involve a brain injury. The NHTSA estimates that the new requirements will save over 300 lives and prevent nearly 400 serious injuries per year.

For the first time, a dummy representing a small adult female will be used in side-impact performance testing. A new and more technically advanced dummy representing an adult male of average height will also be used in crash testing.

While the NHTSA does not require specific technologies to meet its new performance requirements, manufacturers likely would meet this upgraded rule with various types of innovative head, chest and pelvis protection systems, such as side curtain air bags and thorax air bags.

The new rule will require that manufacturers begin equipping all vehicles with improved side-impact protection that meets the federal standard, beginning with a phase-in schedule that starts in 2009.

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