Airbags now available for rear seats

SAFETY technology has become increasingly important both as a marketing device and to satisfy ever-more stringent safety requirements, especially in North America.

The airbag, a reinforced pouch which inflates to cushion the driver of a car in the event of a collision, has been proved to drastically reduce head injuries and is now standard in many luxury cars.

Now the first airbag designed to protect rear-seat passengers from head injuries in the event of a collision has been developed by Nissan.

The original airbag, which inflates in just 30 milli-seconds, was only available for the driver and was mounted in the steering wheel boss. The same protection has recently become available for front-seat passengers.

The front-seat passenger airbag is in the dashboard.

Until now, the rear-seat passengers have been left unprotected from the serious head injuries that can result from the passengers' heads striking the headrests of the front seats during a heavy collision.

Seat belts can prevent passengers from being thrown into the front of a car, but the head and face are still vulnerable.

The new rear passenger airbag will be introduced for the first time in the Japanese market version of the Leopard J. Ferie.

Research by Nissan suggests that when a single rear-seat passenger travels in a car, he or she tends to sit behind the front passenger seat.

For this reason, and presumably to lower costs, the rear seat airbag is only available mounted in the back of the front passenger seat.

Because of the range of different seating positions of a rear-seat passenger on the broader rear bench, the airbag is 1.5 times larger than a conventional bag so to offer better protection.

The system is activated and the bag inflated along with the driver's steering wheel-mounted cushion.

There are no plans to release a three-bag J. Ferie in Hongkong in the near future, but the model supplied to the territory comes with better safety provisions than other markets.

The Hongkong version has a front passenger airbag as standard, whereas the J. Ferie's for the US and Japanese markets will not be fitted with the front passenger airbag until later this year.