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European Regulations on Car Air Bags
Published September 01, 1993 by ISATA - Dusseldorf Trade Fair in United Kingdom
Event: ISATA 1993
The effectiveness of car air bags in reducing injuries and death in frontal or near-frontal impacts has already been proven in USA and Germany.
Reports published by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that the use of air bags resulted in a 29% reduction in deaths and serious injuries in USA.
Even if this high figure is not reached in Europe because of factors such as the greater use of seat belts, nevertheless, information from Mercedes-Benz shows that air bags have saved lives and reduced injuries in Germany.
Before 1992 there were only a relatively few car companies fitting air bags as standard.
The announcement in late 1992 that the Ford Mondeo would be fitted with driver's side air bag as standard heralded a significant increase in interest in the subject and by mid-1993 there was an obvious increase in the number of reports in the motoring press of car manufacturers' intentions to fit or offer air bags in an increasing number of their models.
There were a number of factors which may have prevented car companies from fitting air bags in Europe: -
(a) There is no legal requirement to do so.
(b) The items are relatively expensive and may not have helped to sell cars.
(c) There are no monetary incentives from Governments (e.g., tax benefits) or from insurance companies (e.g., reduced premiums) to encourage car manufacturers to fit air bags. (Indeed, the tax systems operated by some governments can be considered as a tax on safety since the tax is based on the list price of the car with no exemption for extras such as air bags or seat belts tensioners.)
(d) Because air bag inflators and some seat belt tensioners are currently (June 1993) classified as explosives in the majority of countries in Europe, regulations controlling activities such as importation, transport, storage, manufacture, handling and disposal are not only complex but, in many cases, are restrictive.
In this paper, I would like to discuss this latter aspect, i.e., the regulations on explosives in Europe as applied to car air bags and seat belt tensioners.
I will briefly mention the regulations in USA and the effect on international and national regulations of the United Nations' (UN) decision in December 1992 to accept the USA proposal to classify air bags as UN Class 9 ("Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods").