Exploding Airbags: Who Has the Right Fix?

airbag-explosion

Ten automakers have recalled a total of 8 million cars because the airbags in them can explode.

While it’s true that airbags are, by design, supposed to explode out of the car in case of an accident, these airbags explode with so much force that they actually send shrapnel into the air. An airbag with shrapnel is worse than no airbag at all. Right?

All the defective airbags were manufactured by a company called Takata, which doesn’t have enough product on hand to repair all 8 million vehicles. Automakers are taking very different routes to address this issue, with at least one recommending that the affected airbag be turned off completely.

Toyota has recalled almost 900,000 cars, but doesn’t have enough airbags to fix all of them. While it waits for Takata to deliver more, the company said that it plans to disable defective airbags once it runs out of replacements.

Only a small percentage of the defective airbags are likely to explode in a crash, and more people could be killed due to the disabled airbags than by the defective airbags.

The Center for Auto Safety’s executive director Clarence Ditlow said,

You save more lives by leaving the airbags in place than you would lose lives by the airbag exploding.

So now an automotive recall has turned into a question of how many lost lives are acceptable.

General Motors has no plans to disable airbags if it runs out of replacement parts for the 80,000 cars on its recall list. Honda, recalling 5 million cars, has not commented on whether or not it plans to disable the airbags.

In my humble opinion, Toyota has taken the correct stand on this issue. Since the recalled airbags are only on the passenger side, it will disable those airbags and put a sticker on the dash that warns people to not sit there until the fix has been made.

By going that route, Toyota has reduced the risk of death from both problems. It’s up to the occupants of the car to make the choice of where they sit, but Toyota’s liability is eliminated.

Recalled cars include just about every model of Honda between 2001 and 2011, Toyota Corollas from 2002-2005 and Tundras from 2003-2005. Also included are 2000-2006 BMW 3 Series cars and Dodge Ram pickups. Nissan, Ford, Subaru and Mitsubishi also have vehicles included in the recall. Check the full list to see if your car is affected, and contact your dealer for details on how to get the problem fixed.

Did Toyota make the right choice to disable recalled airbags?

-tgriffith

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