DOT Announces New Side Impact Safety Requirements for Vehicles

NEW side impact safety requirements for all passenger vehicles will require auto manufacturers, for the first time ever, to provide head protection in side-impact crashes.

The new standard, announced on Sept. 5 by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, also would enhance other protections for passengers involved in such crashes. It is expected that the upgrade, developed by DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will save hundreds of lives every year, officials said.

"This new standard will spare hundreds of families from losing a loved one in a side-impact accident, and will forever raise the bar on safety for drivers and passengers across America," Peters said.

Side-impact passenger vehicle crashes are a serious -- and frequently severe -- safety problem on the nation's roadways. Side impact crashes account for 28 percent of all fatalities, the majority of which involve a brain injury. NHTSA estimates that the new requirements will save more than 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 also will be used in crash testing.

"With these rigorous new requirements, we are building on the strength of innovative and life-saving side impact technologies that are already available to many new car buyers," NHTSA Administrator Nicole R. Nason said.

While 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.

Issued on Sept. 5 by NHTSA, 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.

More information on the new rule can be found in PDF format at http://www.nhtsa.gov.

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