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Home » Archives » March 2012 » Did you know that US Air Bags are more Dangerous than European ones?

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Did you know that US Air Bags are more Dangerous than European ones?

An automotive related article appeared on Slashdot today about how to properly hold the steering wheel. I noticed that the article got over 650 comments, so I started reading some of them. The discussion quickly turned to a discussion about airbags. Several people posted about the differences between US air bag laws and the European regulations. I decided to check the story out, and sure enough US air bags are larger and deploy with more force than the air bags on cars for other markets...
From Wikipedia:

Regulatory specifications

United States

On 11 July 1984, the U.S. government amended Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 (FMVSS 208) to require cars produced after 1 April 1989 to be equipped with a passive restraint for the driver. An airbag or an automatic seat belt would meet the requirements of the standard. Airbag introduction was stimulated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.[41] However, airbags were not mandatory on light trucks until 1997.[42]

In 1998, FMVSS 208 was amended to require dual front airbags, and de-powered, or second-generation airbags were also mandated. This was due to the injuries caused by first-generation airbags, though FMVSS 208 continues to require that bags be engineered and calibrated to be able to "save" the life of an unbelted 50th-percentile size and weight "male" crash test dummy.

Outside the U.S.A.

Most countries[who?] outside North America adhere to internationalized European ECE vehicle and equipment regulations rather than the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. ECE airbags are generally smaller and inflate less forcefully than U.S. airbags, because the ECE specifications are based on belted crash test dummies. In the United Kingdom, and most other developed countries [Emphasis Added -Ed.] there is no direct legal requirement for new cars to feature airbags. Instead, the Euro NCAP vehicle safety rating encourages manufacturers to take a comprehensive approach to occupant safety; a good rating can only be achieved by combining airbags with other safety features.[43] Thus almost all new cars now come with at least two airbags as standard.

Wikipedia contributors, "Airbag," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed March 27, 2012).

You get the subtle insult here, right?: The US is listed separately from "developed countries".

So why the difference? Historically, Americans have been far more lax about using our seat belts. The numbers are catching up, but we are still over 10% more likely to forgo the seat belt.

I'll be posting much more about airbags in other articles, but I find it interesting that the Government here in the United States mandates air bags that are more violent than the ones for "developed countries".