All passenger cars and light trucks produced after September 1, 2006, are required to have advanced frontal air bags. The advanced air bag rule (as part of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208) applies to all classes of vehicles - passenger cars and light trucks, such as pickups, SUVs and vans - that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)* of 8,500 pounds or less and an unloaded vehicle weight of 5,500 pounds or less.
- First generation frontal air bags saved thousands of lives, but were also responsible for injuring or killing some vehicle occupants (especially infants and children) who were unrestrained or positioned too close to air bags as they were inflating. "Too close" can occur when an occupant, typically unbelted or leaning out of position, slides forward just before the crash impact (the period known as pre-crash braking) to within a few inches of - or directly on top of - a rapidly inflating air bag.
- Second generation or "depowered" air bags were designed to help prevent these air bag-related injuries and deaths, generally by inflating with less energy or power and volume.
- Third generation or "advanced" frontal air bags utilize sophisticated sensing devices to be even more effective than depowered air bags in saving lives - while at the same time reducing the potential of causing an air bag-induced serious injury or death to a child or small-stature adult.
* The GVWR is the weight of the empty vehicle plus the maximum weight of cargo and passengers that can be safely loaded in the vehicle, as specified by the manufacturer. The label indicating GVWR is usually located on the driver's door jamb or door.