Side-Impact airbags come in two different types: torso protecting and head/torso protecting. Of the car models built in 2003, 40 percent offered head-protecting side airbags (24 percent standard equipment, 16 percent optional equipment). An even larger number of 2004 model year passenger vehicles are offering side airbags with head protection (27 percent standard equipment, 21 percent optional equipment).
Side-impact airbags provide supplemental protection during side impacts. Some types provide protection for just the torso, or for both the head and torso. According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States, side-impact airbags have reduced deaths among passenger car drivers involved in driver-side collisions by about 45 percent when the side airbag included head protection and by 11 percent when the side airbag was designed to protect only the torso.
Side-impact airbags do not require any periodic maintenance. However, to ensure that the system is operating properly, make sure that the airbag indicator light works exactly as described in the owner's manual. With the ignition in the on position, the light should come on momentarily and then go out. If the light stays on or comes on while driving, have the system checked by a professional service technician. Also, air bags sometimes have defects that are covered under a recall from the manufacturer. To see if your vehicle is covered, visit the Transport Canada website.