Updated ECE Requirements on Airbag Warning Labels Proposed
Since the 1990's, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) Regulations on frontal impact and restraint systems have required vehicles equipped with passenger front airbags to be fitted with an airbag warning label and for information to be included in their owner's manual regarding the dangers of fitting a rearward facing child restraint on a seat protected by an active airbag. Currently, identical requirements regarding the warning label and the text for inclusion in the owner's manual are specified in ECE Regulation No. 16.07 on restraint systems, in ECE Regulation No. 94.03 on offset deformable barrier front impact and in ECE Regulation No. 137.01 on rigid barrier front impact.
In 2015, the European Commission raised some concerns regarding the application and interpretation of the current airbag warning label requirements at a meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) Working Party responsible for passive safety; the Working Party on Passive Safety (GRSP). Having reviewed the airbag warning labels and owner's manuals from numerous production vehicles, the European Commission were concerned that the important message which the warning labels and owner’s manual text are intended to convey may be diluted for the following reasons:
- In some instances, the pictograms shown on the warning labels are not identical to the ones specified in the ECE Regulations.
- In some instances, additional information is shown on the same label as the airbag warning pictograms.
- For vehicles placed on the market in the European Union, the information contained in the owner's manual is only given in the language of the country into which the vehicle was first imported, whereas the vehicle could end up being registered in a different EU country.
To address these concerns, GRSP drafted an 08 series of amendments to ECE Regulation No. 16, which contain far more prescriptive requirements on the airbag warning label and on the text to be included in the owner's manual. The proposed requirements on the airbag warning label specify that any customisation of the prescribed pictograms is prohibited and that other information may only be included on the label if it is outside a clearly marked rectangle containing the prescribed pictograms. With regard to the text in the owner's manual, the proposed requirements specify that vehicles intended for the European Union must contain the prescribed text in all 24 official languages of the European Union.
In addition to the draft 08 series of amendments to ECE 16, GRSP also drafted Supplements to ECE 94.03 and ECE 137.01 which remove the airbag warning label and owner's manual text requirements from these Regulations and replace them with a reference to the new requirements specified in ECE 16.08.
The draft 08 series of amendments to ECE 16, and the draft Supplements to ECE 94.03 and ECE 137.01, were formally adopted at the 176th session of the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) in November 2018 and official publication of these updates is expected during July or August 2019.
With regard to introduction dates, it is proposed that, from 1st September 2020, Contracting Parties will not be obliged to accept any new type approvals to ECE 16 which do not comply with the 08 series of amendments and, from 1st September 2022, Contracting Parties will not be obliged to accept existing type approvals to ECE 16 which do not comply with the 08 series of amendments.