University of Extrication: Front Center Airbag

General Motors (GM) introduced a new airbag in several of its 2013 model-year vehicles: a front-center airbag. Responders, for the first time, can now encounter a driver’s seat in a GM vehicle that has an airbag on each side. The new front-center airbag deploys from the right side of the driver’s seat during side crashes or during a rollover. General Motors research data shows that passenger-side collisions, referred to as “far-side” collisions, accounted for 11% of the belted-front-occupant fatalities in non-rollover crashes between 2004 and 2009.

As the new airbag inflates, the front-center bag acts as an energy-absorbing cushion between the driver and front passenger. If both front seats are occupied, having this airbag between these occupants reduces the likelihood of injury from person-to-person contact. As this new airbag inflates from the right side of the driver’s seat into the area between the front bucket seats, it is designed to curve toward the driver. This sealed, unvented airbag will remain inflated longer than the frontal airbags to continue to provide protection to the occupants as the crash event occurs.

The front-center airbag rolled out on the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse; all GM mid-size crossover vehicles, beginning with the 2013 model year. This new safety feature is standard equipment on Acadia and Traverse vehicles equipped with power front seats and is standard equipment on all Buick Enclave vehicles.

For responders, the presence of this additional seat-mounted airbag further validates procedures that call for shutting down the 12-volt electrical power of a vehicle early in an incident. Until vehicle power is shut down, the entire airbag system of the vehicle can remain fully energized. Once shut down, the airbag capacitor will begin draining until all reserve power has been depleted. In addition, when scanning the interior of the vehicle for the presence of undeployed airbags, the inboard side of the driver’s front seat will now need to be examined. That is the location for the second airbag ID on the driver’s seat. Remember, two airbag IDs on the same seat means two airbags! Be alert. n


TASK: Given a 2013 model-year or newer Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia or Chevrolet Traverse, the rescue team shall review how to identify the presence of the front-center airbag system and shall establish procedures for operating at an incident when this system is present.