Vehicle recalls over airbags

The ongoing recall over explosive airbags involves several car manufacturers – cars involved have been made and sold in America and in Europe. The link explains the recall and the history of this recall. To me it reads like callous disregard for consumer safety and lives by the manufacturer and by the U.S. Government. This is a story we have seen before.

Takata air bags have malfunctioned (including a few deaths). Hondas with the Takata airbags are one of the brands of cars that have been recalled. We did own a Honda and that car was on a “safety” recall list. The airbags were replaced. So I am aware of the recalls. I was not aware of the deaths due to shrapnel when the airbags exploded. Why wasn’t this information released. No doubt some car owners are unaware or ignore recall notices. The news that an airbag which is supposed to save lives or at least reduce injuries has the potential to kill should be broadcast by the entertainment news media. You would think?

The other safety recall story is Toyota with the unintended acceleration defect. Which Toyota blamed on human driver error, and then the floor mat. We know now that the cause of the run away cars was a software glitch and that there was no over ride control that gave priority to the BREAK over the accelerator. I happened to have driven one of the detective Toyotas in 2006 – a rental. The acceleration glitch happened to me twice on a cross country trip. I assumed that this was an isolated incident and reported the problem to a Hertz employee when I returned the car. This was before there was any news media coverage of dramatic deaths – one of a police officer and his recovered call to 911.

What we all discovered as the story of Toyota cars with this glitch became a pattern, that could not be denied by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was that there was no central database, to collect information on car malfunctions. The easy way out was to claim driver error and to ignore the terrible truth that the software was fatally flawed with a intermittent error that was difficult to replicate in the lab.

The Takata airbag defect is different but similar. People have been killed by these malfunctioning airbag. But no big deal – let the auto manufacturers have low level quiet safety recalls.

Note that when we replaced our Honda we did not buy a Toyota nor a Honda. We bought one of the few cars still being made with a manual transmission. Modern cars use computers so there is no avoiding the mini computers built into modern cars. And actually done correctly computer assisted driving is probably safer and smoother. I just don’t want to give computers complete control over the car’s transmission.

My frightening encounter with what could have been a runaway Toyota impacted my purchasing decision on this new car. Of course I researched the subject of manual transmission to the point of obsession. There are not many choices – very few manual transmission models are being made. Since we want to pull a small travel trailer that limited our choices even further.

We have been using an old Toyota truck with manual transmission to pull the trailer but that truck is almost a classic. We also wanted four wheel drive to get to the ancient ruines and prehistoric sites in the Southwest. Having the four wheel option also comes in handy, when stuck behind a truck carrying and pulling huge loads of gravel. In the low creeper gears our old antique truck (rebuilt engine) never over heated. On that long pull in western Colorado (the backside of the Rockies) we passed dozens of overheated much newer trucks and SUVs.

How do we consumers force the government to create, maintain, and collect data on defective products? If this is being done – are the records a national security secret?

Additional links, comments and information

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