Laws mandate that every new vehicle must be equipped with dual front air bags, but the safety and technological complexity of air bags depends on both vehicle year and model.
The most modern air bag technology uses electronic sensors to release air bags quickly, slowly, or not at all, according to Consumer Reports. Factors that are calculated by the most advanced air bag technology include seat position, whether a seat belt is worn, crash severity and the weight of the passenger. The latter factor is especially important in the case that a child is occupying the passenger seat, in which case air bag deployment could lead to serious injury.
Side air bags are becoming increasingly common in newer models. They usually deploy from the seatback or door, and are reportedly meant to protect the passenger’s torso.
According to Consumer Reports, the government mandated that “smart” air bags be installed in all vehicles by 2007, so consumers with financial difficulties or bad credit history can afford a used vehicle with advanced air bag technology.