Posted in: Commentary,
by Gregg Laskoski on Feb 15, 2013 06:00 AM
Have you ever been in a collision in which your vehicle's airbag saved you from severe injury or death?
Folks who've had that experience know that any temporary setbacks automakers may have with airbag recalls is still a step in the right direction; the one that looks to ensure that airbags engage properly at the time they're most needed.
USA TODAY recently took a look at the rising tide of airbag recalls. Already this year, Honda and Toyota have launched air bag-related recalls covering 1.5 million vehicles, and apparently, the problem stems from the fact that there are so many of them and the circuitry that triggers them can sometimes have interference from other technology in the vehicle...
Clearly, there are more of them being packed into cars. They're in new places and are more sophisticated.
Since 2011, air bag recalls have involved nearly 7.75 million vehicles, more than the previous eight years combined.
"It's a complex system, and that complexity implies more components," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin.
There's no debate about their effectiveness. At issue is whether they'll inflate when they're supposed to, or whether they'll cause injuries on their own.
That was the fear with Honda's recall last month. It recalled 748,481 vehicles -- 2009 to 2013 model year Pilot SUVs and 2011 to 2013 Odyssey minivans -- for missing rivets on an air bag cover. The driver could be hurt if the air bag deploys when all six rivets aren't in place.
Toyota reported that its recall of 887,709 vehicles -- 2003 and 2004 Toyota Corollas, Matrixes and Pontiac Vibes -- centered on a circuit board that can short out due to interference from other electric components. If that happens, the automaker warns that an air bag could accidentally deploy.
Air bags inflating without a crash is one problem, when detectors that are supposed to sense a crash trigger the air bags, says Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies. Sometimes, bags inflate prematurely, then deflate before a person is cushioned.
And, at the same time the automakers are developing more complex air bag systems, they're finding new places to put them and adding more of them...
Toyota's new RAV4 crossover has eight air bags; the 2013 Dodge Dart has 10.
Yes, that means more can go wrong. But, as someone who benefitted greatly from an airbag following a collision with an elderly driver who decided to turn left on red into oncoming traffic, I'll gladly comply with any airbag recall notice.
There can always be a few glitches that don't get our attention, but with airbags, it's important to get it right. That's what recalls do. Don't be disappointed by the automakers with recalls; they're delivering important safety advances and saving lives.