When people think about airbag safety in their automobiles, they generally think of that giant balloon that comes from the steering wheel and above the glove compartment. Front airbags are crucial in saving lives in automobile accidents, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the supplemental safety devices saved more than 25,000 lives in the United States between 1987 and 2008. But last year the NHTSA also declared that more needed to be done in regard to side curtain airbags. Thus, new manufacturing regulations were developed, and this week we are seeing just how serious the NHTSA is about promoting side airbag safety.
Specifically, Ford Motor Company has announced the recall of 154,604 Ford Fiesta models that were manufactured and sold between 2011 and 2013 because of a failure to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208, “Occupant Crash Protection.” Basically, the popular compact vehicles were designed so that the passenger side airbag would not deploy if there was no one sitting in the front passenger seat. However, this creates a safety hazard for any passenger sitting on the right side in the backseat, as a rollover could seriously injure that person when the airbag fails to deploy.
While the side airbags in these vehicles were intentionally designed to not deploy under these circumstances, the vehicles are in violation of the FMVSS because that information is not made clear in the owner’s manual. Ford will notify owners, who can then bring their Fiesta vehicles to their dealerships and have the system software reprogrammed at no cost.
The reason for the side airbag safety effort is because people are often unaware of how much more danger they are in when it comes to the differences between side-impact and frontal collisions. While both are incredibly dangerous, drivers and passengers are 14 times more likely to die in a side-impact crash. Over the last decade, approximately 47% of the fatalities in crashes that involved rollovers involved the driver or passenger being completely ejected from the vehicle. The NHTSA plans to have completed the implementation of these new regulations by 2018.