United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is determined to make sure that no one dies in a car again. The newest safety protocol from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concerns occupant ejection in side impact crashes and rollovers.
The new regulation would require modification to the side airbags we already see in cars. To keep passengers from being launched out the vehicle during an accident, automakers will need to start with enlarging the existing side curtain airbags. The larger airbags will help to cover the window opening, keeping passengers in the car. NHTSA is also requiring that the new side airbags stay inflated longer and be tethered to the side pillars of the vehicle after inflation. The new regulation also states that the side impact airbags must inflate for both side impact collisions and rollovers.
The ejection mitigation safety standard is only applicable to vehicles under a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 lbs or less. Phase in for the new regulation begins September 1, 2011, with full compliance across all manufacturers required by September 1, 2017.
Source: NHTSA (PDF link)