U.S. Senator Criticizes NHTSA Handling Of Takata Airbag RecallsMarch 8, 2016
A leading Democratic senator leveled criticism at the nation’s auto safety regulatory agency for the office’s handling of the massive series of Takata airbag recalls. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida spoke on the Senate floor about how the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration failed to expand its Takata airbag recalls to include all vehicles that carried the defective safety devices. NHTSA Director Mark Rosekind responded that expanded recalls would be counterproductive and that all the agency was still investigating flaws related to the Takata airbags.
Injuries Force Takata Airbag Recalls
The Takata airbag recalls began when reports surfaced of how the airbag assemblies exploded in a collision. Drivers and passengers were seriously injured by flying metal and plastic shrapnel. The injuries included a Florida woman who died when the airbag assembly in her Honda Accord exploded. A debris shard lacerated her carotid artery and she bled to death in her car. In his remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Nelson mentioned the incident and remarked that police on the scene had examined the victim’s wounds and had initially concluded that she had been murdered.
Takata Airbag Recalls Include All Major Automakers
Scientific studies related to the Takata airbag recalls showed that the chemical used to inflate the airbags could become extremely volatile in humid conditions. More than a dozen automakers, including most major American, German, and Japanese manufacturers, have participated in voluntary Takata airbag recalls since the reports made headlines around the world. While some manufacturers limited their recalls to vehicles in areas with humid climates, others expanded their recalls to include all vehicles with Takata airbags.
“Serious Questions” About Takata Airbag Recalls
Sen. Nelson wrote a letter to Mr. Rosekind about the agency’s handling of the Takata airbag recalls. The senator called for an expansion of the recalls to include up to 90 million total vehicles. He told his fellow senator’s that Mr. Rosekind’s response raised “serious questions” about how the agency investigated safety reports about the airbags prior to the Takata airbag recalls. He also voiced his dismay at how some recalled vehicles received new Takata inflaters using the same volatile chemical, calling it “replac(ing) and old live grenade with a new live grenade.”
NHTSA Fires Back At Takata Airbag Recalls Criticism
Mr. Rosekind responded that replacing older airbag inflaters with newer ones as part of the Takata airbag recalls would keep the older, more dangerous inflaters out of circulation. He also stated inflaters treated with a dessicant (a chemical used to absorb airborne moisture) showed no signs of the volatile explosions found in the untreated airbags. He also clarified that the problem that prompted the Takata airbag recalls was not related to the issue that spurred recalls of side airbag inflaters in more than 400 General Motors vehicles, which were also manufactured by Takata.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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