Is It a Law That Cars Have to Have Airbags?

April 29, 2023 - 4:11 pm - 3 min read


Car safety technology has undoubtedly improved in recent years, with many features becoming standard on today’s vehicles. One such feature is airbags, which are designed to protect passengers during a collision. But, is it a law that cars have to have airbags? This article will explore the legal requirement for airbags and provide answers to common questions about this safety feature.

What are airbags?

Airbags are advanced safety features that are designed to protect drivers and passengers in the event of a collision. They work by automatically inflating when a car is involved in an accident, with the aim of cushioning the impact and preventing further injuries. Modern cars are now equipped with a range of airbags, including front airbags, side airbags, and curtain airbags.

Legal requirements for airbags

In the United States, it is a federal law that all new passenger cars, vans, and SUVs must come equipped with airbags. This law was first introduced in 1998 under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which required that all new vehicles manufactured after September 1, 1998, must have airbags for the driver and front passenger.

Over the years, the law has been amended several times, and today, all cars manufactured in the United States must comply with the federal airbag requirement. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enforces these regulations and ensures that automakers comply with the law.

How effective are airbags?

Airbags have been proven to be highly effective in preventing injuries and saving lives. According to the NHTSA, front airbags alone have saved over 50,000 lives since they were first implemented. In the event of a collision, airbags can reduce the risk of serious head injuries and prevent passengers from hitting hard surfaces inside the car.

However, it’s worth noting that airbags are not foolproof and can cause injuries if they are not deployed correctly. This is why it’s important to wear a seatbelt and sit properly to reduce the risk of injury in a crash.

Exceptions to airbag rule

There are some exceptions to the federal airbag requirement. For example, cars that are classified as “kit cars” or “replicas” are not required to have airbags since they are not considered standard vehicles. Additionally, certain types of vehicles, such as motorcycles and trucks, have different airbag requirements or are exempt from the law.


To answer the question, yes, it is a law that cars have to have airbags in the United States. The regulation was introduced in the late 1990s and has since been amended several times to ensure that automakers comply with the standard. Airbags are an essential safety feature that has saved countless lives and prevented many injuries in the event of a collision. So, the next time you’re driving down the road, you can feel safe knowing that your car is equipped with this life-saving technology.


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