Passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. from 2013 will be required to have side-impact protection as standard under new regulations introduced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The new laws are expected to save hundreds of lives every year by reducing the severity of the impact on the passenger’s torso and head.

In 2005, 9200 people were killed on U.S. roads as a result of side-impacts, which make up around 29% of the total fatality figure. Even with the mandated airbags the NHTSA expects to save only 300 out of these – though in our eyes that’s still significant enough. Additionally, the number of people suffering serious injuries is expected to drop by 400.

Carmakers voluntarily agreed to install side air bags in all vehicles by September 2009 and the safety equipment is already becoming more prevalent. Under the government's plan, automakers will be required to phase-in the head protection in 20% of passenger vehicles in 2010, 50% by 2011, 75% in 2012 and in all passenger vehicles for the 2013 models.

While NHTSA does not require specific technologies to meet its new performance requirements, manufacturers likely would meet this upgraded rule with various types of innovative head, chest and pelvis protection systems, such as side curtain air bags and thorax air bags.