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11/13/14   |   By

The Exploding Air Bag Problem | DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

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The media has been buzzing this year with terrifying stories of dangerous and defective auto parts recalls.

More recently, airbag manufacturer Takata has come under the gun for manufacturing potentially defective airbags installed in eight million vehicles across the country. These airbags apparently can explode and kill drivers and passengers with their shrapnel. Quite a disturbing defect!

All told, 10 different automakers installed the defective Takata airbags in various vehicles. Honda Motor Company alone will have to recall five million vehicles to replace the airbags. But as safety advocates and consumer protection groups rally to get manufacturers to take action, others worry that the “cure” to the exploding airbag problem could be worse than the disease.

According to Cyndi Knight, a spokesperson for Toyota, the car manufacturer will disable defective air bags, once it runs out of replacement parts to fix the 800,000 or so Toyota vehicles recalled. Knight says that the company’s decision to disable the airbags is “an indication of how seriously we take the problem.”

General Motors (GM), which had has to spend billons of dollars this year to wind back the damage caused by defective ignition switches, only needs to replace 80,000 airbags.

Per a CNN Money report, however, not everyone agrees that this strategy makes sense.

Clarence Ditlow, the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, worries that disabling the airbags could actually cause more havoc than it prevents for two reasons:

1.       Only a very small percentage of airbags suffers the shrapnel defect;

2.       Airbags, in general, do save lives and protect passengers and drivers.

Let’s say, for instance, that two out of every thousand airbags has a shrapnel problem. But out of a thousand potentially fatal accidents, a driver might survive 570 of them with a working airbag in the vehicle but only 530 of them with no airbag.

Calculating the cost benefit trade-off is challenging, but Ditlow insists that “you save more lives by leaving the airbags in place than you would lose lives by the airbag exploding.”

Nevertheless, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given Toyota permission to disable the airbags that have been recalled – an act that otherwise would be against the law. Toyota will insert stickers on vehicles with disabled airbags, warning people to avoid riding in the front passenger seat until a replacement to airbag has been installed.

GM officials say that that company has enough replacement parts to handle the issue without resorting to disabling airbags.

If someone you love needs help with a Washington DC auto accident or product liability case, call the legal team here at Regan Zambri & Long today for a free consultation.

Want a quick primer on the related issue of the GM recall? Check this article out: GM Recall Delay Prompts Multiple Investigations

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