Airbags have been a great help in reducing vehicles fatalities. Thousands of lives have been saved since airbags became standard on most vehicles. The airbag is triggered when a sensor detects extreme deceleration. This causes an explosive charge to fill the airbag in milliseconds, and it inflates and surrounds the vehicle's occupants and prevents them from violently jerking forward.
The good news is they work in the vast majority of instances, as they should. But during the last 10 years, some airbags from the manufacturer Takata have exploded and injured or killed motorists in the vehicles during car accidents.
This has now led to an enormous recall by auto manufacturers, which now stretches to encompass 7.8 million vehicles.
It has also led to a call by congressional investigators to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for an explanation from that agency. The airbag recall involves more than five million Honda vehicles, but also millions of vehicles from numerous other manufacturers.
The congressional scrutiny for the NHTSA comes on the heels of the GM ignition switch recall and other high profile automotive safety failures. The effectiveness of the NHTSA has been questioned in relation to these recalls, and in both cases, they did little investigate the issues.
Another problem caused by the size of the recall is the lack of available parts to make the necessary repairs. With millions of vehicles affected, most Honda owners in the Baltimore area will not be able to go to their dealer and have their vehicle fixed "immediately" in spite of NHTSA's recommendation.
The defective airbags are most likely to explode in humid conditions, so owners in Florida and other humid regions may receive the first replacement parts. The NHTSA site that identified affected vehicles has been down much of this week, while Honda published a 1-800 number to call for information.
It will be interesting to see what information the congressional requests uncover.
Bloomberg.com, "Honda Air-Bag Deaths Draw Congress Query as Recalls Widen," Jeff Green and Craig Trudell, October 22, 2014