Frequently Asked Air Bag Questions free review Q: disable air bag deactivate disabling air bags disable seat belt 1998 deactivate bag disabling 1997 light stays scoliosis front passenger front seat speed deploy light stays deploying bags trigger weight deployment speed deployment passenger disconnect Who can get an on-off switch for an air bag?  How can most people ride safely with air bags?  Who is at risk from air bags?  Why must I submit the request form to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? Why can't I just ask a dealer or repair shop to install an on-off switch? Can consumers get their air bags deactivated instead of installing a retrofit on-off switch? How do I get an authorization from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to deactivate my air bags? Will the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allow or require manufacturers to install on-off switches in new vehicles?  I am buying a new car, and want an air bag on-off switch. Can I have  free review   
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Frequently Asked Air Bag Questions

Q:

Updated Jun 10, 2004 21:20:37
Rating  reduce  16 ( -2 -12.5% )
Description:
Who can get an on-off switch for an air bag?
How can most people ride safely with air bags?
Who is at risk from air bags?
Why must I submit the request form to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? Why can’t I just ask a dealer or repair shop to install an on-off switch?
Can consumers get their air bags deactivated instead of installing a retrofit on-off switch? How do I get an authorization from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to deactivate my air bags?
Will the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allow or require manufacturers to install on-off switches in new vehicles?
I am buying a new car, and want an air bag on-off switch. Can I have one installed?
What about vehicles with "depowered" air bags? Can on-off switches be installed in these vehicles?
What about rental cars?
Why should I leave the air bags in my vehicle turned on?
How do air bag deaths occur?
Do both children and adults face risk?
Should a pregnant woman get an on/off switch?
How do I best protect children?
Are air bags the reason the back seat is the safest place for children?
Will on/off switches be necessary in the future?
Are all air bags the same?
Do I need an on/off switch if I buy a vehicle with depowered air bags?
How can I get more information about air bag on/off switches?
Who can get an on/off switch for an air bag?
A: Vehicle owners can get on-off switches installed for one or both air bags in their vehicles if they (or users of their vehicle) fall into one or more of the four specific risk groups.
For both driver and passenger sides:
Individuals with medical conditions where the risks of a deploying air bag exceed the risk of impacting the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield in the absence of an air bag.
For the driver side, in additional to medical conditions:
Individuals who cannot position themselves to property operate the vehicle with the center of their breastbone at least 10 inches back from the center of the driver air bag cover.
For the passenger side, in addition to medical conditions:
Individuals with the need to transport an infant in a rear-facing child restraint in the front seat because the vehicle has no rear seat, the rear seat is too small to accommodate a rear-facing child restraint, or because it is necessary to constantly monitor the child’s medical conditions.
Individuals with the need to carry children between 1 and 12 years old in the front seat because the vehicle has no rear seat, the consumer must carry more children than can be accommodated in the rear seat, or because it if necessary to constantly monitor a child’s medical conditions.
There are the only four groups that are eligible for the installation of on-off switches. Disabling an air bag is difficult and can be dangerous. Federal law prohibits dealers, repair shop, etc. form disabling air bags. More important, because air bags have been shown to save more than 1,500 lives, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) strongly discourages disabling the air bag (s), except in special circumstances.
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Q: How can most people ride safely with air bags?
A: Most people can take steps that will eliminate or at least significantly reduce any risk without turning off air bags and losing their protection. The main source of risk is proximity; an air bag needs space to inflate. Move your seat rearward, and tilt your seat back – as a driver, you should ride at least 10 inches (measured from the center of the steering wheel to your breastbone) from the air bag cover--if you can do this while maintaining full control of your vehicle. Passengers also need to sit at least 10 inches back from the air bag. Wear your seat belt, and remove any excess slack in the belt. Insist that children 12 years old and younger ride in the back seat. Never put a rear facing child restraint in front of an air bag.
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Q: Who is at risk from air bags?
A: Very few people. Almost everyone is safer with an air bag than without one. There is a serious risk only if you are very close to the air bag cover (within 2-3 inches) when the air bag deploys.
On the driver side, if you are one of the relatively few people unable to get back at least 10 inches from the air bag cover (measured from the center of the steering wheel center to your breastbone), you may be a candidate for an on-off switch. At progressively shorter distances, the chances of being saved by an air bag decreases the chances of being injured by it increases. The distance below 10 inches at which you might consider getting an on-off switch varies from vehicle model to vehicle model, because the risk is affected by differences in the design and performance of different air bags and crash sensors. The vast majority of people who currently sit less than 10 inches from the steering wheel can achieve that distance by moving their seat to the rear as far as possible (while still being able to comfortably drive the vehicles) and/or tilting the seat back slightly. If you cannot maintain at least a 10 inch distance from the air bag, despite your best efforts, you may wish to contact your dealer or vehicle manufacturer for advise about additional ways of moving back from your air bag. If you still are unable to come close to achieving the 10-inch distance, you may wish to consider getting an on-off switch. Since air bag performance varies among vehicle models, you may wish to consult your vehicle manufacturer for additional advice. If you do get an on-off switch, leave the air bag turned on for all drivers who can get back at least 10 inches.
If you are a driver with a medical condition, you should only turn off your air bag if you have been advised by a physician that an air bag poses a special risk to you and this risk outweighs the increased risk of possible injury to your head, neck or chest should you hit the steering wheel or dashboard in a crash and your air bag is turned off. Hitting these components can occur even if you are using your seat belt. At a recent National Conference on Medical Indications for Air Bag Deactivation, a group of physicians considered all medical conditions commonly cited in letters to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as possible justification for turning off air bags. The physicians did not recommend turning off air bags for many relatively common medical conditions, such as pacemakers, eyeglasses, angina, emphysema, asthma, breast reconstruction, mastectomy, previous back or neck surgery, hyperacusis, tinnitus, advanced age, osteoporosis and arthritis (if the person can sit at a safe distance from the air bag), or pregnancy. The physicians recommended turning off an air bag is a safe sitting distance or position cannot be maintained by a driver because of scoliosis or achondroplasia or by a passenger because of scoliosis or Down syndrome and atlantoaxial instability. The physicians also noted that a passenger air bag might have to be turned off if an infant or child has a medical condition and must ride in front so that he or she can be monitored. To obtain a copy of the recommendations, call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Hotline or see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web site.
Older drivers should follow the advice given above for all drivers.
On the passenger side, all children up through age 12 belong in the back seat. But, if you must place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an air bag, get an on-off switch and turn the air bag off. Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an activated air bag. If children 12 years and younger must sit in the front seat, first ensure that they use seat belts and/or child restraints appropriate for their size or weight. Then, move their vehicle seat all the way back. If these steps are taken, the risk of injury from the air bag will be substantially reduced. However, since children sometimes lean far forward or slip out of their shoulder belt, placing themselves in danger, you may wish to consider getting a switch and turning off the air bag. Since air bag performance varies from vehicle model to model, you may wish to contact your vehicle manufacturer for advice.
Passengers with medical conditions should follow the advice above for drivers with such conditions.
People not in any of the above groups will be worse off if they turn off their air bag. This includes the vast majority of teenagers and adults. By turning off their air bags, they will increase their chance of death or serious injury in moderate or high speed crashes.
Top
Q: Why must I submit the request form to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? Why can't I just ask a dealer or repair shop to install an on-off switch?
A: It was decided to require this step to emphasize the importance of taking seriously the safety consequences of installing an air bag on-off switch. In addition, prior review of requests will enable the agency to monitor directly, from the very beginning, the implementation of the regulation and the effectiveness of educational efforts to promote informed decision making about air bag on-off switches.
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Q: Can consumers get their air bags deactivated instead of installing a retrofit on-off switch? How do I get an authorization from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to deactivate my air bags?
A: Generally, no. If a retrofit on-off switch is available from the vehicle manufacturer for a particular vehicle, eligible consumers desiring to disable their air bags must have a retrofit on-off switch installed; a dealer or repair shop cannot simply deactivate (or disconnect) the air bags. If a retrofit on-off switch is not yet available from the vehicle manufacturer for a particular vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will authorize air bag deactivation on a case-by-case basis under certain circumstances. If a retrofit on-off switch is available only from an after market company, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still will authorize air bag deactivation for eligible people.
Write a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, C 20590-1000. Requests can also be FAXed to (202)366-3443. Include: (1) the name an address of the vehicle owner or lessee, (2) the reason for the deactivation request, and (3) any supporting documentation (for example, a letter from a physician for all deactivation requests based on medical conditions for which the National Conference on Medical Indications for Air Bag Deactivation has NOT recommended deactivation. The physician's judgement, the condition is such that the potential risk of air bag deployment outweighs the risk of an air bag NOT deploying in a crash).
If the request concerns a child that must ride in the front seat to enable the driver to monitor the child's medical condition, the supporting physician's statement must identify the condition and state that frequent monitoring by the driver is necessary. If the request is approved, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will send you a letter authorizing deactivation, an agency information brochure, labels alerting vehicle occupants about the deactivated air bags, and a form to be filled out and mailed back to the agency regarding the deactivation. You should then call your dealer or repair shop and ask whether it will disconnect the air bag. Some dealers and repair businesses have a policy of not disconnecting air bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cannot require them to deactivate air bags; however, most people should be able to find a qualified automotive mechanic or technician who will do the work.
Top
Q: Will the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allow or require manufacturers to install on-off switches in new vehicles?
A: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allows vehicle manufacturers to install passenger air bag on-off switches in new vehicles in limited circumstances. "Factory-installed" passenger air bag on-off switches are allowed in new vehicles only if they do not have rear seats, or if the rear seat is too small to accommodate a rear-facing child restraint. "Factory-installed" on-off switches are not allowed for the driver air bag in any new vehicle. Manufacturers are not required to install on-off switches in any new vehicle.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided against requiring or allowing on a widespread basis on-off switches as "factory-installed" equipment for several reasons. First, the switch is tied to a person in a risk group; the agency was concerned that extending the option of on-off switches to all new vehicles might result in on-off switches being installed as standard equipment in all new vehicles, thus resulting in on-off witches being installed without regard to whether individual consumers were at risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also was concerned that integrating on-off switches into new vehicles, which probably would require redesigning instrument panels, would divert resources from the development of more sophisticated air bag systems.
Top
Q: I am buying a new car, and want an air bag on-off switch. Can I have one installed?
A: Yes. If you decide you want one (and you or a user of your vehicle falls into one of the risk groups), starting January 19, 1998, a dealer or repair shop can install an on-off switch in a new car or light truck, if you have an authorization letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Remember, in order to request a switch, you must know the vehicle identification number of your vehicle and write it on your request form.
Top
Q: What about vehicles with "depowered" air bags? Can on-off switches be installed in these vehicles?
A: Yes, you can have an on-off switch installed in a vehicle with a depowered air bag. However, depowered air bags will reduce the risk of injury caused by air bags. On the driver side depowered air bags are expected to substantially reduce any air bag related risks for short drivers. On the passenger side, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that, with depowered air bags, there would be almost no chance of fatality to a properly safety belted child sitting back from the air bag. There still would be a substantial risk for an infant in a rear-facing child restraint and for unrestrained or out-of-position children ages 12 and under. Even if you or a user of your vehicle fall within one or more of the risk groups eligible for an on-off switch, you should consult with your vehicle manufacturer before installing an on-off switch in a vehicle with depowered air bags.
Top
Q: What about rental cars?
A: Rental car companies will be able to have on/off switches installed in their vehicles if they believe the vehicles will be used by people in one or more of the four risk groups.
Top
Q: Why should I leave the air bags in my vehicle turned on?
A: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for each age, 5 through 27 years old. Air bags reduce the risk of dying in a direct frontal crash by about 30 percent. Air bags have saved over 2,600 lives through November 1, 1997. They also have prevented a large number of serious head and chest injuries. Overall, air bags add to the protection offered by seat belts. In the vast majority of cases, adults are safer with an air bag that is "on".
Top
Q: How do air bag deaths occur?
A: Air bags are designed to save lives and prevent injuries by cushioning occupants as they move forward in a front end crash. By providing a cushion, an air bag keeps the occupant's head, neck, and chest from hitting the steering wheel or dashboard. To perform well, an air bag bursts through its cover and begins to inflate. Those 2 to 3 inches are the "risk zone." The force decreases as the air bag inflates farther.
Occupants who are very close to or on top of the air bag when it begins to inflate can be hit with enough force to suffer serious injury or death. However, occupants who are properly restrained and sit 10 inches away from the air bag cover will contact the air bag only after it has completely or almost completely inflated. The air bag will then cushion and protect them from hitting the hard surfaces in the vehicle.
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Q: Do both children and adults face risk?
A: Yes, both children an adults face the risk of an air bag injury or death if they are position too close to the air bag or fail to use proper restraints. As of November 1, 1997, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has confirmed that 49 young children have died, all on the passenger side. Thirty-eight adults have died--35 drivers and 3 passengers.
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Q: Should a pregnant woman get an on/off switch?
A: NO, not unless she is a member of a risk group. Pregnant women should follow the same advice as other adults: buckle up, and stay back from the air bag. The lap belt should be positioned low on the abdomen, below the fetus, with the shoulder belt worn normally. Pull any slack out of the belt. Just as for everyone else, the greatest danger to a pregnant woman comes from slamming her head, neck, or chest on the steering wheel in a crash. When crashes occur, the fetus can be injured by striking the lower rim of the steering wheel or from crash forces concentrated in the area where a seat belt crosses the mother's abdomen. By helping to restrain the upper chest, the seat belt will keep a pregnant woman as far as possible from the steering wheel. The air bag will spread out the crash forces that would otherwise be concentrated by the seat belt.
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Q: How do I best protect children?
A: Never place a rear facing infant seat in the front seat if the air bag is turned on. Always secure a rear facing seat in the back seat. Children ages 12 and under should ride in the back seat. While almost all of the children killed by an air bag were 7 years old or younger, a few older children have been killed. Accordingly, age 12 is recommended to provide a margin of safety.
There are instances when children must sit in the front because the vehicle has no rear seat, there are too many children for all to ride in back, or a child has a medical condition that requires monitoring. If children must sit in the front seat, they should use the seat belts and/or child restraint appropriate for their weight or size and sit against the back of the vehicle seat. The vehicle seat should be moved as far back from the air bag as practical. Make sure the child's shoulder belt stays on. If adult seat belts do not fit properly, use a booster seat. Also, children must never ride on the laps of others.
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Q: Are air bags the reason the back seat is the safest place for children?
A: NO. The back seat has always been safer, even before there were air bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study of children who died in crashes in the front and back seats of vehicles, very few of which had passenger air bags. The study concluded that placing children in the back reduces the risk of death in a crash by 27 percent, whether or not a child is restrained.
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Q: Will on/off switches be necessary in the future?
A: Manufacturers are actively developing so called "smart" or "advanced" air bags that may be able to tailor deployment based on crash severity, occupant size and position or seat belt use. These bags should eliminate the risks produced by current air bag designs. It is likely that vehicle manufacturers will introduce some form of advanced air bags over the next few years.
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Q: Are all air bags the same?
A: No. Air bags differ in design and performance. There are differences in the crash speeds that trigger air bag deployment, the speed and force of deployment, the size and shape of air bags, and the manner in which they unfold and inflate. That is why you should contact your vehicle manufacturer if you want specific information about the air bags in your particular car or truck.
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Q: Do I need an on/off switch if I buy a vehicle with depowered air bags?
A: Many manufacturers are installing depowered air bags beginning with their model year 1998 vehicles. They are called "Depowered" because they deploy with less force than current air bags. They will reduce the risk of air bag related injuries. However, even with depowered air bags, rear facing child seats still should never be placed in the front seat and children are still safest in the back seat. Contact your vehicle manufacturer for further information.
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Q: How can I get more information about air bag on/off switches?
A: Informational brochures will be available through auto dealers, State motor vehicle departments, AAA clubs, or from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration directly. You can call the agency's toll-free Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393 or you can visit that agency's site on the World Wide Web at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov. Click on the air bag icon for detailed information that should help you make an informed decision about air bag use in your vehicle. Copies of the necessary information brochure and request form also can be downloaded from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's web site.
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Source: NHTSA 11/10/1998

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