There can be little doubt that airbags, when designed correctly, will save lives. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), airbags have saved approximately 35,000 lives since 1987. However, when airbags are defectively designed, they create a high risk of severe injury and death to vehicle occupants. As of 2009, defective airbags were responsible for 296 deaths, 59 life threatening injuries, and countless severe injuries. Injury and death due to defective airbags are caused when one of the following occurs:
• The airbag inflates too quickly and aggressively, violently hitting the occupant in the face; or
• The airbag ruptures before inflation, spewing pieces of metal into the occupant’s body.
Last year, Takata, a major airbag manufacturer for Honda and Nissan, ordered the largest airbag-related recall in history due to a string of injuries and two deaths caused from its highly explosive airbags. Takata has since admitted that it did not properly store the chemicals used to inflate the airbags, defectively manufactured the explosives used for inflation, and did not adequately maintain quality-control records.
NHTSA has opened an investigation into the issue and says that it knows of six incidents of ruptured bags and three injuries in high-humidity Florida and Puerto Rico. A major factor in the size and expansion of the recalls has been admitted. Bad recordkeeping by Takata has made it difficult to identify the vehicles that might have the suspect inflators. As of mid-July, eight car manufacturers including Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, and Subaru had joined in the recall of these defective Takata airbags. In the latest actions:
• Honda recalled 1.02 million vehicles in North America and 2.03 million worldwide. They were built from 2000 through 2005 and include some models of Civic, CR-V, Odyssey and Element. With this expansion, air bag recalls have affected nearly 4 million of the company’s older vehicles in North America.
• Nissan recalled 755,000 vehicles worldwide built from 2001 through 2003, with about a quarter-million Pathfinder, Cube and Infiniti FX35 models in North America.
• Mazda recalled nearly 160,000 vehicles made from 2002 through 2004, with about 15,000 in North America, including RX-8 and early Mazda6 sedans.
• Regional recalls in the U.S. by Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, BMW, Ford and Chrysler of certain vehicles in humid climates. NHTSA estimates that 1.5 million vehicles could be affected — the totals and lists of vehicles still were being compiled.
• Subaru is recalling nearly 8,600 Subaru Legacy cars, Outback wagons, Baja crossovers, and Impreza cars.
Since 2008, more than 10 million cars containing the defective Takata airbags have been recalled. Unfortunately, it’s highly probable that we are going to see many more recalls in the future before this problem is resolved once and for all.
Source: USA Today and Automotive News
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