When the risks associated with an occupant being seated in front of an active frontal air bag outweigh the safety benefits, NHTSA will authorize the installation of an air bag ON-OFF switch. Authorization will be granted under the following four circumstances:

  1. A rear-facing infant restraint must be placed in the front seat of a vehicle because there is no rear seat or the rear seat is too small for the child restraint. (For the passenger air bag only.)
  2. A child under 13 years of age must ride in the front seat because the child has a condition that requires frequent medical monitoring in the front seat. (For the passenger air bag only.)
  3. An individual with a medical condition is safer if the frontal air bag is turned off. A written statement from a physician must accompany each request based on a medical condition unless the request is based on a medical condition for which the National Conference on Medical Indications for Air Bag Deactivation recommends deactivation. (For driver and/or passenger frontal air bag as appropriate.)
  4. Drivers must sit within a few inches of the air bag (typically because they are of extremely small stature, i.e., four feet, six inches or less). (For the driver frontal air bag only.)

In those instances where an ON-OFF switch is not made for a particular vehicle, the agency will consider allowing an air bag to be deactivated. The approval process for deactivation is more rigorous because while an ON-OFF switch allows the driver or passenger frontal air bag to be turned on and off in appropriate circumstances, deactivation is not so flexible. Once deactivated, an air bag cannot be easily activated for those occupants who may need it.