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    Default Side Airbags & Seat Covers

    Received a question about seat covers from an East Coast firefighter. Anybody have any more information to pass along about this issue??
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    I work in a small department in Virginia. Recently, we had a hands-on session with a Toyota Prius. While looking at this car, I noticed the side impact air bags that are released from the seat. With this in mind, I have also noticed a growing number of people, especially teenagers, who chose to put seat covers on new car seat. Have there been any studies or incidents in which the side impact air bags have been released from a seat which has a seat cover? It would seem that this the cover would prohibit the air bag from working, and possible create more of a problem.
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    My Reply:
    Yes, seat covers can and will affect the deployment of seat-mounted side impact airbags. It is so much of a concern that the automakers publish warnings in the operator's manuals and the airbag manufacturers themselves promote awareness of this situation. Seats with side airbags should not have conventional seat covers installed. With a tight seat cover, the bag may never fully deploy into position to protect the seated occupant. Remember, with a side collision, there is no crumple zone; just you and that door.

    Due to consumer demand, there are actually now manufacturers offering specially designed seat covers for seats with airbags. One example is shown below; a seat cover without sides. Another design wraps around the edges of the seat but has weakened tear-out threads to allow for airbag deployment. I've also seen covers with velcro side flaps.

    image from http://www.misssideless.com/homepage.html
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    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator
    www.universityofextrication.com

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