I recently wrote a University of Extrication article on seatbelt pretensioner systems. Seems there still remains the Urban Legend that these are dangerous, explosive devices. My article explained what they are, how they work, and what rescuers need to know about them.

A career fire officer on the East coast wrote to ask about the history of pretensioners. Here's his question and my response...

"Hi Chief:
I have an easy question for you today. I did a class mixed with police and fire and someone from the PD was wondering what year they made it law to have pre-tensioner's in cars?"

As a result of this question, I did some research into the history of pretensioners. Seems there is no law requiring this feature but it has become the norm for the automakers. It can reduce injuries caused by a deploying airbag. Occupants might sue the manufacturer if it is just the airbag that wacked them so the automakers are snugging the belts to keep the passenger back away from the bag as it deploys.

Early seatbelt pretensioners appeared in Mercedes Benz vehicles beginning with the 1985 models. Most other manufacturers took a bit longer to get with the program. Cadillac, for example, started to use pretensioners as early as their 1998 Cadillac Seville.

For Dodge vehicles, I checked the popular Dodge Caravan. This minivan did not have pretensioners initially. The 2004 model was the first Dodge Caravan with pretensioners.

Ford: I looked into the Crown Vic as an example here. The 1990-1992 models did not have them. 1992-1997 did not have them either. The 1997 model year Crown Vic was the first Crown Vic to have front seat pretensioners

The popular Ford Explorer first got pretensioners with the 2001 model year.

Chrysler: I checked on the common Town & Country minivan since it has been around for a long time. 1996-2001 models were without pretensioners but the 2002 T & C minivan did have pretensioners.

Chevy: I used the Chevy Caprice as my sample vehicle here and found that pretensioners were not available in this car until the 2007 model year.

The Chevy Malibu first got pretensioners with the 2004 model year vehicle.

The Chevy Trailblazer SUV had pretensioners beginning in the 2002 model year.

Interesting information although it is just a brief look into pretensioners; not a comprehensive study by any means. Seems that in the early years, use of pretensioners varied by manufacturer and then by specific model. Since 2007, I found that pretensioners should be found throughout almost all if not in fact all vehicle makes, and models.