1 December 2004
LTSA sends mixed message over side curtain airbags
The Land Transport Safety Authority is failing to disclose all the facts in its enthusiasm for trumpeting the completely
obvious – that side curtain airbags are a life-saver when fitted to four-wheel-drives involved in side impacts with
poles or trees.
According to the Motor Industry Association, the LTSA is sending out a dangerously mixed message. “On the one hand the
the LTSA is telling us is that car buyers need to choose a vehicle with head-protecting airbags in order to maximise
their personal safety, but on the other hand they are not telling us that nothing is being done about the loophole that
encourages the importation of huge numbers of older four wheel drives with minimal safety features,” said MIA CEO Perry
Imports of used passenger cars are effectively restricted to post-1996 models due to the need for compliance with
Japanese-market frontal impact standards, however these standards don’t apply to vans and 4WDs. This means there is no
age restriction on the importation of these vehicles, which not only lack even previous-generation safety features, but
are also inherently unstable in emergency manoeuvres.
“If the LTSA has suddenly become enthusiastic about modern safety features they need to be doing something about the
continued importation of older vehicles which are doing nothing for the average safety of the vehicle fleet,” said Mr.
Kerr. “They could also include in their thinking such important accident-preventing features as Electronic Stability
Systems,” said Mr. Kerr. “According to real-life research recently carried out by Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, these
systems have cut driver-related accidents by more than 40 percent.”
A high proportion of newer vehicles fitted with side curtain airbags are also fitted with Electronic Stability Systems,
and such features are no longer restricted to just high-priced cars.
“The LTSA’s safety message is getting more confused by the day,” said Mr Kerr. “The new car industry continues to make
enormous progress in delivering advanced safety technology to the motoring public, but the LTSA needs to do something
constructive about the ageing vehicle fleet. Until this happens, we can only regard their propaganda as paying lip
service to safety on the roads.”