Law & Order


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has upgraded the side-impact protection standard for new cars and trucks. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 214 will now require that test vehicles be slammed sideways into a pole to determine how well they protect occupants. Although NHTSA does not dictate how to construct vehicles that will comply with the test’s performance requirements, most automakers are expected to install airbags. Since the rule requires protection for a wide range of adult sizes, both torso and head-curtain airbags are expected to be utilized. 

The new rule will be phased in over a four-year period starting in 2009. The deadline for most vehicles will be September 1, 2012. There is, however, a one-year extension for vehicles weighing between 8,500—10,000 pounds. Automakers had already agreed to a voluntary industry standard in 2003 that required most cars to have head-protecting airbags by 2009. Nevertheless, NHTSA felt compelled to go beyond the voluntary approach since a federal safety standard triggers mandatory compliance and recall responsibilities. About 84% of model-year 2006 vehicles already have side airbags.  

When NHTSA issued its proposed rule in 2004, SEMA recommended in comments to the agency that it require manufacturers to provide all service information necessary to install equipment that will work in conjunction with vehicle airbags. NHTSA responded that it does not anticipate any marketplace problems and encouraged the auto industry to continue working together to share such information.

For a copy of the rule, click here.

For further information, contact Stuart Gosswein at