Another Day . . . Another Airbag Recall


April 24, 2013

Automakers have become more aggressive about implementing new and improved vehicle safety features, such as crash avoidance systems, improved stability control, fatigue warning features and more. One major change is the increase in the number and location of airbags in passenger vehicles.

While these additional airbags are intended to provide extra safety for vehicle occupants, airbags are becoming a major problem because of the number of defective airbags and airbag systems that are necessitating recalls.

According to USA Today, a new airbag recall this week by Toyota will involve the vehicle manufacturer conducting inspections of over half a million vehicles to locate 170,000 faulty airbags. The Toyota recall covers the model years from 2001 to 2003 for certain of the following vehicles:

  • Sequoia
  • Matrix
  • Corolla
  • Tundra
  • Lexus 430
  • Lexus SC

This latest airbag defect recall adds to the massive number of vehicles that have been recalled recently. Toyota and Honda had previously announced the recall of 1.5 million vehicles during the first few months of 2013 because of faulty airbags. There were a total of 22 airbag recalls during 2012 covering 18 different brands of vehicles.

Vehicle manufacturers are struggling with air bag safety recalls partially because airbag systems are extremely complex. The system must determine when a collision has occurred which merits inflation of the airbag and then cause the airbag to completely deploy instantly. This does not factor in the additional complexity involved with airbag systems that have sensors to determine that the passenger is too small for the airbag to safely deploy. These determinations are made by computer systems relying on millions of lines of code that are triggered by an array of sensors so there is a lot that can go wrong.

This wave of recalls has been triggered by a variety of factors that range from missing rivets on airbag compartment covers to malfunctioning circuitry. The most current Toyota recall is linked to a defective "propellant wafer," which could result in a rupture of the inflator so that the passenger side airbag in the front seat of the affected vehicles does not deploy properly.

While airbags are a valuable piece of vehicle safety equipment, innovation in the sophistication of airbags and installation of the safety devices in a growing number of locations has resulted in a rise in product defects. These defects can cause air bags not to deploy, deploy too aggressively or deploy at the wrong time. When airbags malfunction in these ways, the result can be devastating injuries like traumatic brain injuries, blindness, spinal cord injuries, broken bones and even wrongful death.

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Category: Personal Injury

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