Big Vans Get New Safety Equipment

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Side curtain airbags are available for the first time in the 2008 Chevy Express and GMC Savana vans — those 12- to 15-passenger haulers commonly seen taking large groups of folks to and from airports, hotels and church functions.

These are also the types of long, tall vehicles that have made news in recent years for rollovers, which is why side curtain airbags are now standard for 2008, along with electronic stability systems with rollover control, and antilock brakes.

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However, side curtain airbags are only offered in the first three rows of seats. GM has a three-row system in current vehicles, like the Chevy Suburban, that was easy to borrow for use in the five-row Express and Savana. Coming up with a side curtain system for five rows would have taken extra time to create and test, so GM decided to go with three-row protection for the first three rows now and add a technology it already has access to — called Enhanced Technology Glass — for the back two rows.

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The windshield, side and rear windows of all vehicles are made of tempered glass that, in the event of a collision, shatters into thousands of little pieces without sharp edges that would cut and injure occupants. When the glass shatters, it leaves window openings along the sides of the car, but the airbag curtains keep occupants from being ejected and, thus, in even greater risk of death or injury. Both the Express and the Savana vans use tempered glass in the side windows of the first three rows, but the forth and fifth rows now are made of Enhanced Technology Glass. This glass doesn’t shatter, keeping occupants from being ejected in a collision or rollover, thus giving the automaker time to create and test curtains for all five rows in the future. The ETG glass is standard in both vans for 2008.

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