Airbag Fatalities Reveal Flaws in U.S. Recall System

Jan 20, 2016

What is the latest news on automobile recalls?

Fatalities linked to Takata Air bags reveals flaws in the U.S. recall system. After eight reported deaths, and about 100 other injuries caused by shattered air bags, vehicles with these flawed devices were not not recalled swiftly enough, and completing repairs to the devices occurred at a slow pace, leaving many individuals at risk of injury or death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced the latest death of a minor child that most likely resulted from air bags that can spray drivers and passengers with shrapnel. Although the agency acknowledged the pace of recalls had picked up—to about 2 million per month, 19 million vehicles under the recall are still unrepaired. Moreover, it may take another 7 months to complete the needed repairs.

Consent Decree between the NHTSA and Takata

Takata reached a 5-year consent decree with the NHTSA in 2015. The company agreed to pay fines of $70 million, fire some employees and phase out the chemical explosive linked to the failures. If the company fails to live up to the agreement, it will be subject to additional fines of as much as $130 million.

The consent decree included installing an independent monitor, to be paid for by Takata. The NHTSA decree also imposed deadlines for action that are designed to speed up the pace of recalls and repairs. Meanwhile, the NHTSA has reportedly expanded its recalls beyond Honda to include models manufactured by other automakers that contain the defective airbags.

A Flawed Recall System

The slow response in the airbag debacle speaks to the broader issue of flaws in the nation’s automobile recall system. According to the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group, only about 70 percent of newer vehicles covered under recalls are repaired, while the figures for older vehicles are even lower—in a range of 50 to 60 percent. In short, the flawed recall system can lead to cars that have not been repaired being legally resold, resulting in tragic deaths that should have been prevented.

Lawmakers have also failed to address this issue. Amazingly, a measure included in transportation legislation that would have required used car dealers to perform repairs on all outstanding recalls was dropped before the bill passed.

While the government is responsible for the recall system, there are other legal remedies available to consumers. If you own a car that is under a recall and repairs have not been made, you should consult with a qualified Lemon Law attorney.

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