Car accidents claim the lives of thousands of people every year in the United States. However, not all of these fatalities come from the crash, itself. Defective auto parts, particularly when the defect is in a safety feature, can make a crash far worse than it should have been. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Takata airbag recall, which has now entered its third year.
Because of the complexity of the Takata airbag recall, we’re going to take several blog posts to detail the ongoing situation and all of the most recent developments. Here, we talk about the defective airbags, themselves.
How Airbags are Supposed to Work
There are several kinds of airbags. The airbags that Takata uses work through a complex set of crash sensors and chemical reactions.
Throughout your car or truck, there are numerous crash sensors. These detect your vehicle’s momentum in real-time, as well as any immediate changes to it. If the changes to your car’s momentum suggest that it’s being hit, these sensors get triggered, sending an electrical signal to your vehicle’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU).
The ECU determines if the changes to your car’s momentum are severe enough to deploy the airbags inside. If they are, then the ECU sends another electrical signal, this time to the airbag inflators. This signal sets off the airbag igniter, which creates a chemical reaction inside the airbag that releases gas in a controlled explosion. This gas fills up the airbag, cushioning everyone inside the car.
All told, this entire process – from the instant of the collision to the airbag’s complete inflation – takes less than half the time it takes to blink your eyes.
Takata’s Defective Airbags
The defect in Takata’s airbags is in both the chemical reaction that fills the airbag and the inflator that holds the chemicals and triggers the reaction. To cut costs on their end, Takata used the cheap chemical compound ammonium nitrate and a steel inflator.
Unfortunately, this chemical compound breaks down if it’s exposed to big temperature changes and moist air over a long period of time. To make matters worse, the steel inflator is weaker than other, similar, parts. If the ammonium nitrate breaks down and the steel inflator gets triggered by your car’s ECU to deploy the airbag, the explosion can break the inflator apart, inflate the airbag, and shoot the metal shards of the inflator through the airbag.
The shrapnel of the inflator has caused several deaths and numerous injuries. Additionally, the shrapnel puts holes in the airbag, preventing it from inflating properly and leaving it useless in a crash.
St. Joseph Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Airbags, along with seatbelts, are some of the most effective safety features in cars, today. They save lives in some of the most serious car accidents on the road, in large part because they inflate so quickly.
But when airbag manufacturers like Takata try to cut corners, they put people at risk of a serious personal injury or even a deadly one. This is why the personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office represent those who have been hurt by defective airbags like those made by Takata. Contact us online or at (816) 875-9373 if you’ve been hurt and are interested in a products liability lawsuit.