The present invention provides an apparatus and method for monitoring vehicular impacts using magnetostrictive sensors. The apparatus includes at least one and sometimes a plurality of magnetostrictive sensors positioned about a motor vehicle at locations appropriate for detecting and measuring stress waves in the structure of the vehicle caused by a vehicular collision or crash. Signals from the magnetostrictive sensors are collected and analyzed in a signal processing system that identifies a severe crash condition and commands a restraint trigger control system to activate one of a number of vehicle occupant restraint systems. The magnetostrictive sensors are structurally simple and mounted to integral elements of the vehicle by adhesive or mechanical attachment. Use of such magnetostrictive sensors in place of more conventional sensors (e.g. accelerometers) provides the opportunity to recognize and react to impact conditions within a significantly reduced time-frame.