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Auto Safety Systems and the LawNotes From the Road

Auto Safety Systems and the Law
By Mac Demere/

What’s Required and What Soon Will Be -
New-car brochures and vehicle reviews regularly tout facts and features about new models, and high-tech, advanced safety systems such as dual front airbags and a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS). That’s the same as saying it meets current emissions standards: If the vehicle didn’t have dual front airbags and a tire-pressure monitoring system, it couldn’t be offered for sale. Of course, the promotional information often mentions that its star meets current emissions standards, too.

Things are different for electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, side airbags, rearview cameras and active head restraints, among other components. None of these are currently required. However, some of these features will soon be required by regulation and some likely will be needed to meet safety performance requirements.
Here are some regularly mentioned safety systems and the government regulations or requirements surrounding them. (Government decisions are subject to change. Don’t be shocked if dates for some yet-to-be-required systems are pushed back a year or two.)
Tire-pressure monitoring systems, or TPMS give a warning when one or more tires are radically under-inflated. This system has been required on all cars since the 2008 model year.
Electronic stability control (often abbreviated ESC, but also called by a host of other names and acronyms) will be required on most 2011 vehicles and all 2012 model-year vehicles. ESC has been optional or standard equipment on some cars for more than a decade. ESC uses a sophisticated computer system to sense when a vehicle is about to spin out or plow straight off a slippery road. In such situations, the computer will apply brakes at individual wheels and, possibly, reduce engine power. Many drivers won’t even notice the help they just received.
Anti-lock brake systems (ABS) are part of a package. In other words, while not specifically required, everything needed to make ABS work is part of the ESC system. It would require some skillful programming to not have ABS. It’s not unfair to say ABS will be required on all 2012 vehicles.

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