DaimlerChrysler announced that they would be shipping all 2004 Jeep Liberties with a new airbag that is equipped with a sensor that automatically turns off the airbag if a minimum weight isn't detected in the seat. The new airbag is meant to reduce the number of injuries/deaths to small people and children who are riding in the front seat.
Safety advocates are praising smart air bags, which turn themselves off or deploy softly if they sense a driver or passenger is too small. But they say it's still a lot smarter for drivers to put small passengers in the back seat.
Automakers, in compliance with new federal standards, will begin phasing in the new air bags next Monday, installing them in 20 percent of new vehicles. The new systems, which have weight sensors in the front seats to detect whether drivers or passengers are too small to withstand the force of an air bag, will be in all new vehicles by Sept. 1, 2006.
Advocates and federal safety officials applauded the change today but also issued a warning.
''We want to make sure parents are clear: Old air bag, new air bag, no air bag, kids are safer in the back seat properly restrained,'' said Ellen Engleman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there have been 231 confirmed deaths due to air bags since 1990, including 144 children.
General Motors Corp. has advanced air bags in its 2003 and 2004 pickups and sport-utility vehicles, spokesman Jim Schell said. DaimlerChrysler AG is installing the technology in the 2004 Jeep Liberty and Dodge Durango, spokeswoman Angela Ford said.