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NHTSA to Takata: Time to take that air bag recall nationwide

In the past six years, over 10 million cars with air bags manufactured by Takata Corp. have been recalled in the U.S. alone. As many as that sounds, the latest recall has actually been targeted on specific regions of the country where the combination of heat and humidity makes it most likely that the air bags will burst. In a conference call yesterday, however, Deputy Administrator David Friedman of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told reporters that his agency no longer considers that to be good enough.

The potentially-lethal safety devices have been thought to explode during some accidents, throwing dangerous shrapnel flying through the air at high speeds. Citing an August accident in North Carolina, which is outside the targeted region, however, NHTSA says it's time to expand the recall beyond the 4.1 million cars recalled in high-humidity states.

For its part, Takata is already running short on replacement air bags needed for cars subject to the current recall, so it isn't sure an expanded recall is the best option. It has also tested nearly 1,000 cars outside the targeted regions and found no problems. NHTSA's Friedman was unwilling to estimate how many more cars would be subject to a nationwide recall, but "Takata is concerned that a national recall could potentially divert replacement air bags from where they're needed, putting lives at risk," explained a Takata spokesperson.

Friedman made clear, however, that dealing with this tragedy is taking too long. He criticized Takata for its "unwillingness to move forward" with expanding the recall and pressured the company to increase production on the replacement air bags or to bring in outside suppliers.

BMW has already expanded its recall, and the other four carmakers have agreed to work with NHTSA and evaluate their options. Representatives from Takata, Honda and Chrysler will join NHTSA tomorrow in testimony before the U.S. Senate.

If you've been injured or a loved one has been killed in a traffic accident, you may discover that one of the vehicles involved was subject to a safety recall. In such a case, you may have read this blog post with some dismay, because it seems as if the companies involved are focused more on their bottom lines and less on the danger to drivers and passengers. A personal injury lawyer can help by sidestepping the politics and seeking compensation directly from the manufacturers responsible.

Source: Reuters, "U.S. auto regulator seeks nationwide recall of Takata air bags," Julia Edwards and Eric Beech, Nov. 19, 2014

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