Airbags saved nearly 40,000 lives between 1987 and 2012, but are yours impacted by the latest airbag recall?

What Can Happen in an Auto Accident If You Have Faulty Airbags?

The largest automotive industry recall just got bigger as Takata, a leading global supplier of automotive safety systems, added another 2.7 million vehicles to the recall list. In all, the recall is expected to affect more than 42 million vehicles in the United States.

For those not familiar with the recall, vehicles with the Takata airbags started showing issues way back in 2008. Since that time, more and more cars with Takata airbags have been added to the vehicle recall list. The Japanese company has declared bankruptcy after reaching a $1.59 billion settlement to compensate drivers whose vehicles have the faulty airbag.

Defective Airbags Harm People

Since 1998, all new cars sold in the United States have airbags on both the driver and passenger sides. The idea of the airbag has been around since World War II, when the first patent was filed, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the first commercial airbag was placed in an automobile.

The purpose of the airbag is to deploy in certain types of car accidents to provide added protection from injury. Crash tests show airbags can reduce the risk of being killed in a head-on crash by about 30 percent.

Airbags are controlled by sensors that detect impacts. If there is a crash, within a split second, a small pyrotechnic device in the airbag explodes and inflates the airbag.

The defect with the Takata product is twofold. First, in some instances, the airbag is deploying with such force that it is literally injuring as well as killing people. Also, small metal fragments sometimes shoot out from the pyrotechnic device, hitting the passenger near the bag.

It’s important to make sure your vehicle is not among those being recalled. You can check here for a complete list of vehicles; if yours is on the list, you need to call the dealership where you purchased the vehicle to discuss repairs.

Seatbelts Are the First Line of Defense

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 1987 to 2012, nearly 40,000 lives have been saved by airbags. NHTSA does reinforce the message, though, that the first line of defense in an auto accident is a seatbelt. As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009, 33,000 people were killed in car crashes, and more than half of those killed were not wearing a seatbelt. According to news reports, more than 600 people were killed in auto accidents in Colorado in 2016. This number includes those on motorcycles, bicycles or pedestrians. Of those involved in car crashes, 186 people killed in accidents last year were not wearing a seatbelt. Law enforcement officials believe a lack of seatbelt use could be directly linked to the fact that Colorado does not have a primary seat belt law, meaning that the only way you can be ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt is if you are stopped for another offense and found not to be wearing a seatbelt.

So, while it’s comforting to know automobiles have a secondary safety device, that being an airbag, authorities say the best way to keep yourself safe is to always buckle up. That’s advice not always heeded by Colorado drivers: In 2015, a survey estimated that only 85 percent of car drivers and front-seat passengers used a seatbelt.

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