Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 13, 2014

GM recall reveals gaps in air bag knowledge

(Continued)

The report said further analysis would be necessary to figure out whether the air bags could go off if the ignition was in the "accessory" position. Seven years later, that analysis is finally being done.

In a statement to the AP, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is talking to car companies and air bag suppliers about how air bag performance relates to the position of the ignition. The agency says it will take "appropriate action" based on its findings. It didn't specify what form that action could take, but the agency could make new rules governing how long air bags must work if power to the vehicle is cut.

Right now, federal regulations don't govern when air bags must deploy or how much power they need. Automakers are only required to meet government standards for protection of dummies in a series of crash tests.

The lack of regulation is intended to promote innovation. A decade ago, for example, automakers unveiled advanced air bags that determine how much power to use based on occupants' size and whether they're wearing seat belts. But that also leads to a myriad of designs that are harder for safety regulators to track.

The government may have believed there was a 60-second window because GM tells emergency personnel to wait for 60 to 120 seconds after disabling the power in a vehicle to make sure the air bags have deployed. But that is simply out of an abundance of caution, the automaker said.

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