D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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GM's new center-of-car airbag aims to protect in side impact collisions.
GM’s new center-of-car airbag aims to protect in side impact collisions. (pic by GM)

The safety advances ingrained into automobiles over the last fifty years have saved thousands of lives. They’re a large part of the reason that automotive fatalities have been on a decline, despite more drivers and miles driven every year. When airbags first came out in the United States, they saved lives by preventing impacts with steering wheels and front dashes. In some cars, a frontal airbag was mainly meant for the driver. Numerous studies changed this, both moving airbags around and changing the way they deploy. 

The average driver may look at the safety ratings for a car. This doesn’t mean they know how their car will protect them in an accident or what the risk of injury is. They certainly don’t know what research is in the works?

Is GM’s Center-of-Car Airbag Changing Auto Safety?

It’s not everyday a dramatic advance in automotive safety is introduced. But General Motors believes saving more lives and preventing countless injuries may be possible from something as simple as adding another airbag to a place where there never has been one. Namely, it’s right in between the passenger space in the front of the automobile.

GM is calling this a “front center” airbag. It will become standard equipment on the 2013 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia models that have power seats, but we expect it to expand throughout their line rapidly.

The airbag itself deploys from the drivers seat, and is shaped like a tube. Once called into action, it expands to fill the void within the center of a car’s front cabin. Thus drivers and passengers are protected from side impact collisions, not to mention hitting each other as projectiles. These advanced airbags work in collaboration with more traditional driver airbags and passenger airbags to prevent the motion that can cause severe injuries.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), side impacts are the second leading cause of death and serious injuries, trailing only frontal collisions. Think t-bone, but that’s exactly the type of crash – responsible for 11 percent of driver or front passenger deaths while wearing seat belts – where these bags will prove beneficial.

Scott Thomas, senior staff engineer at GM said “the front center air bag is not required by federal regulation, and no other air bag in passenger vehicles today offers the type of restraint and cushioning this air bag is designed to provide for front occupants.”

The jury is still out on where this new feature will lower insurance rates or be a standard feature in the future. But if it performs in the real world as it has in crash testing, the front-center airbag will probably help to save lives. That almost always translates into lower costs on policy premiums.

After the break, check out the video demonstrating a side impact crashes without, and then with the new center-mounted airbag. The results are astonishing, even when compared to dual airbags and other better known innovations.

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How Does Auto Safety Affect Your Auto Insurance Rates?

Auto insurers set their rates based on the driver. They also factor in the car. The government sets minimum standards. But if your car has more recognized safety features that could prevent costly injuries in a crash event, your collision insurance can be lower. Cars like GM’s newest models account for more than just a frontal crash for strong future prospects for GM and its drivers.