Minivan Conversions | Full Size Conversion Van | Handicapped Vans
Information on Minivans Conversions, Handicapped Vans, and Wheelchair Accessible Adaptive Equipment
The steering wheel air bag can be affected by numerous vehicle modifications.
If the steering wheel air bag is being disabled as part of a project that will require other FMVSS exemption to be taken by the vehicle modifier, then a FMVSS exemption is taken to perform the air bag alteration and no NHTSA approval or pre-approval is required.
If you have a disability that requires adaptive equipment and the installation or use of the adaptive equipment, requires FMVSS exemptions to be taken.
If you apply to NHTSA to get permission to install an ON-OFF switch and neither a manufacturer or aftermarket switch is available, then NHTSA will consider deactivating your font air bag.
Air bag ON-OFF switches can be installed for either one or both of the frontal air bags in their vehicles. The car occupant must have one of the following conditions:
Individuals with a medical condition 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 both driver and passenger side.)
Individuals who cannot position themselves to properly operate the vehicle with breastbone at least 10 inches back from the center of the steering wheel air bag cover. (For driver side only.)
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 condition. (For passenger side only.)
Individuals with the need to carry children between one year old 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 is necessary to constantly monitor a child's medical condition. (For passenger side only.)
At NHTSA's request, the Ronald Reagan Institute of Emergency Medicine convened an expert panel of physicians to formulate recommendations on specific medical indications for air bag disconnection (deactivation) at the National Conference on Medical Indications for Air Bag Disconnection (July 16-18, 1997, George Washington Medical Center, Washington, DC). The panel consisted of 17 physicians, each nominated by a professional society or organization. The medical conditions considered were provided by NHTSA as the most common concerns expressed by members of the public in regard to disconnection requests.
The panel recommended disconnecting an air bag if a safe sitting distance or position cannot be maintained by a:
The panel did not, however, recommend disabling air bags for pacemakers, supplemental oxygen, eyeglasses, median sternotomy, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, asthma, breast reconstruction, mastectomy, scoliosis (if the person is capable of being positioned properly), previous back or neck surgery, previous facial reconstructive surgery or facial injury, hyperacusis, tinnitus, advanced age, osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoporosis and arthritis (if the person can sit back at a safe distance from the air bag), previous ophthalmologic surgery, Down syndrome and atlantoaxial instability (if the person can reliably sit properly aligned in the front seat), or pregnancy. The full report with details for each medical condition can be read online.
The panel emphasized that air bags are proven effective in both saving lives and preventing injuries.
Knee bolsters started as not much more than foam covered metal plates installed under a vehicle’s lower dashboard. In the event of a frontal crash, the driver would slide forward and their knees would impact the knee bolster creating a lot of stress on the person's thigh bone and hips. You can imagine that a lot of bones were breaking with this safety design because the forces were carried almost entirely by the thigh bone. A knee bolster air bag is a small airbag that deploys against the person's lower legs. Basically a smaller version of the steering wheel airbag that most people are familiar with. Sometimes the airbags contact the occupant directly but mostly they push the lower panel or bolster out in front of it. The stresses are distributed along the person's lower legs, preventing the axial stresses on the thigh bone, and because it comes out to meet the person's body, does a much better job of holding the person in place and minimizing overall stress on the lower extremities.
Hand controls that are steering column mounted may have parts installed in a location that would jeopardize the knee bolster air bag. If required as part of the installation of column mounted hand control adaptive equipment, the knee bolster air bag can be disabled.
Floor mounted hand controls do not require the disabling of the knee bolster air bag.
The installation of a turnout or rotating seat on some vehicles can have an impact of the air bag.
The air bag electronic system can detect the presence of additional equipment and generate an air bag fault signal, disabling the air bag.
Many seats have air bag installed directly in them or weight sensors that are used by the air bag control system to detect if the seat is occupied. On some modifications, the OEM seat is replaced by an adaptive equipment seat. It is possible to reinstall the occupant detection sensor.
You will need to certify on the request form that you have read the brochure and that you, or your other vehicle occupants are in one or more of the high-risk groups for which the installation of an air bag ON-OFF switch is allowed.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Attention: Air Bag Switch Requests
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590-1000
In addition the dealer or vehicle modifier who installs the air bag ON-OFF switch must provide an insert for the owner's manual that meets the following requirements:
Only authorized dealers and repair shops registered with NHTSA as a vehicle modifier can install ON-OFF switches or disable your airbag using an allowed FMVSS exemption. If an ON-OFF switch is being installed, the dealer or modifier must have the authorization letter from NHTSA.
What is an air bag ON-OFF switch? A switch that allows the front driver or passenger air bag to be turned on or off depending on the needs of the occupant.
What is the difference between disabling an air bag and installing an ON-OFF switch? Disabling permanently prevents the air bag from operating. This affects not only the person for which this might be intended, but other occupants as well. Of course disabling the a driver air bag does not affect the front passenger air bag and vice versa. At least it shouldn't if the air bag is properly disabled.
What if I just don't believe in or like air bags, can't I just disable the air bag in the car I own? No. A dealer or repair shop will not disable your air bag without the proper authorization paperwork from NHTSA. Removing an air bag is a very dangerous project and should NEVER be undertaken by an individual to their own car.
What if an air bag ON-OFF switch is not available for my car? If no ON-OFF switch is available from the manufacturer, investigate if an aftermarket ON-OFF switch is available. If one is available, it should be used. If an aftermarket switch is not available, you can ask NHTSA for permission to disable the air bag instead.
Is it safe for a short stature adult to be seated in the front passenger seat of a vehicle equipped with a front passenger air bag? Yes. The passenger should wear their seatbelts and the seat should be moved as far rearward as possible, and recline the seat back slightly.
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