Takata Airbag Recall Expanded to Millions of Vehicles

accident and injuries from takata airbag failure

As many as 34 million cars and 10 automakers are affected by the massive recall of airbags manufactured by the Takata Corporation. Most of the airbags were installed in automobiles sold in 2002 through 2008; however, in some instances the recall has been expanded to include 2014 models. The problem is related to a chemical that causes the airbag to inflate with explosive force, sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment. The root cause of the defect is still not thoroughly understood and remains under investigation. The faulty airbags are linked to at least 6 deaths and over 100 injuries.

It may be several weeks before  a complete list of vehicles affected by the recall is available. According to recent reports, this could be the largest auto recall in U.S. history. For more details about the recall and an up-to-date list of the autos covered go to safercar.gov. To determine if your car or truck is covered by the recall enter the vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at: https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/

GM Ignition-Switch Defect Now Linked to at Least 21 Deaths

Ignition assembly of GM vehicleGM has establish a Voluntary Compensation Fund for victims of the defective ignition switch in GM vehicles. The program is intended to cover victims killed or seriously injured when the airbag failed to deploy because a defect in the ignition switch causes the vehicle to stall, disabling air bags.

The program was launched on August 5, 2014. According to a report from Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the fund, 21 deaths and 16 claims of serious injures have been determined eligible for compensation from the fund. As of Friday, September 19th, 143 death claims have been received. A recent article from Reuters disclosed that $400 million has been set aside by GM to cover compensation costs for the victims of the recalled ignition switch.

Based on Feinberg’s announcement outlining the details of the compensation fund, the deadline for submitting claims is December 31, 2014. The full text of the announcement is available at www.GMIgnitionCompensation.com

For more information about the ignition defect and the vehicles covered by the recall see the GM Ignition Recall Safety Information  website and the NHTSA Consumer Alert.

Japanese Automakers Recall Over Three Million Cars Due to Risk of Airbags Exploding

Carmaker logosSeveral of Japan’s largest carmakers announced on Thursday, April 11th, the recall of 3.4 million vehicles because of a defect in the passenger side airbags. According to a recent news release posted by American Honda, “it is possible that the passenger front airbag inflators in affected vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which may cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury.” The recall affects top-selling Japanese cars including, but not limited to, the Toyota Corolla and Camry, the Nissan Maxima, and the Honda Civic and Odyssey. Both Honda and Toyota have received reports of incidents where the airbag deployed under pressure and the casing ruptured. However, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths.

The airbags were supplied by Japan’s Takata Corporation, a company that supplies airbags and seatbelts to many of the major automobile manufactures, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Ford. According to news releases, all of the vehicles covered by the recall are model years 2000 to 2003. Toyota is expected to recall over 1.7 million cars manufactured between 2000 and 2004 that were sold in North America and Europe. Honda is recalling about 1.14 million vehicles, Nissan is recalling 480,000 vehicles, and Mazda is recalling 45,500 cars, all sold worldwide.

Consumers can find out if their Toyota or Honda is affected by the recall by going to the company’s  website and entering the vehicle identification number.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, April 11, 2013; Reuters, April 11, 2013

Chrysler Recalls Jeep Sport Utility Vehicle Due to Airbag Defect

Jeep Grand CherokeeAccording to documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Chrysler has announced a recall of 744,822 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs due to a defective airbag control module. A component within the module may fail and cause the front, side curtain air bags, and/or seatbelt pretensioners to deploy during normal operation of the vehicle. “Inadvertent deployment of the airbags may increase the risk of injury and the possibility of a vehicle crash.” The recall pertains to model years 2002 through 2004.

The NHTSA investigation of this problem has revealed 215 cases where the airbags inflated inadvertantly, resulting 81 minor injuries.

Chrysler plans to correct the problem by installing a supplemental jumper harness to the control module, at no cost to the vehicle owner. The recall is anticipated to begin in January 2013. Owners of 2002-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2003 Jeep Liberty SUVs who have questions should contact Chrysler at 1-800-247-9753 and reference recall #M35. Owners may also contact the NHTSA hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or visit safercar.gov and enter NHTSA ID No. 12V527000.

Federal Warning Against Defective Motorcycle Helmets

5x5 SA-08 helmetThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently urged motorcyclists to discontinue using the 5×5 brand, SA-08 model motorcycle helmet. The government requested a recall after the helmet failed to meet federal penetration protection requirements. During safety testing the outer shell and inner liner were penetrated in 3 out of 4 helmets.

Tank Sports, Inc. of California sold as many as 14,000 of the defective helmets. The company filed for bankruptcy and was unable to complete the recall process. As a substitute for a recall, the NHTSA issued a consumer advisory warning people who purchased the helmet of the potential safety hazard. The NHTSA “advises motorcyclists to discard these helmets immediately.” The advisory also urges motorcyclists to always wear a Department of Transportation-compiant helmet. According to the NHTSA, more than 1500 lives were saved in 2010 because the riders were wearing helmets that meet the federal head protection requirements.

Liberty Jeep Airbags

NHTSA logoThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating 2002 and 2003 Liberty Jeep SUVs in response to complaints from jeep owners that the airbags go off unexpectedly. Although no deaths have been reported, drivers have suffered cuts, burns and bruises. 42 incidents involved the driver side front air bags and in 45 cases both driver and passenger front bags inflated. Chrysler believes the problem is related to an electrical voltage spike.

To date, the problem appears to be limited to vehicles made prior to March of 2003. However, Chrysler has no explanation why more recent models are not affected. An engineering analysis is ongoing and might ultimately lead to a recall. To monitor the investigation and learn of a recall visit the NHTSA’s website, or call NHTSA’s auto safety hotline at: 1-888-327-4236.

Teen Driving: Fatal Crashes and Older Teens

teen driversAccording to a recent study, strict driver education requirements have resulted in fewer fatal accidents involving teens. However, these encouraging statistics apply to 16 year old drivers; fatal accidents involving 18 year olds have actually increased. The study reveals that many teens are opting to postpone getting their license until they reach 18 in order to by pass the tough licensing laws and driver restrictions placed on younger teens. In addition to requiring  driver education courses, state driving laws usually require longer permit periods, restrict night time driving and regulate passengers for younger teens. 18 year olds are not subject to these laws and in many states they receive a driver’s license in a matter of weeks. The study suggests that lack of education and experience is partially responsible for the increase in fatal accidents among this age group.

Details of the study are available in the Abstract on the JAMA website, and the NPR Health Blog. For advise on teen driving safety, see the AAA Guide to Teen Driver Safety.

Car Accidents: Uninsured Motorists Insurance

The medical costs for treating injuries sustained in a serious automobile accident frequently exceed the insurance coverage limits carried by most drivers. The law in Connecticut pertaining to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is found in Connecticut General Statute Sec. 38-336. The purpose of this statute is to provide protection in situations where motorists either do not have insurance or have inadequate coverage: “Each automobile liability insurance policy shall provide insurance, herein called uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage … with limits for bodily injury or death not less than those specified in subsection (a) of section 14-112, for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles and underinsured motor vehicles and insured motor vehicles, the insurer of which becomes insolvent prior to payment of such damages, because of bodily injury, including death resulting therefrom …”  This type of coverage pays for injuries when someone is involved in an accident with a hit and run driver, or a driver whose policy limits are not high enough to cover the cost of the injuries. Uninsured motorist insurance also covers pedestrians or bicyclists who are struck by an automobile.