More Takata Airbag Recalls

Earlier this month, troubled airbag manufacturer Takata agreed to replace another 10 million airbag units the company provided to a wide variety of car makers. Takata has been under pressure since at least 2015 to recall defective airbag inflators that can, under some conditions, explode too forcefully and send metal pieces that make up the airbag's inner workings flying towards a driver or passenger.  More than two dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries have been linked to the exploding airbags.

Drivers should be on the lookout for official notices from their car maker indicating that they need to take their car in for free airbag replacement service. Even vehicles that have had an airbag replaced before might need a second replacement since Takata has expanded the list of airbags multiple times over the last five years. Most affected car companies have easy ways to look up affected vehicles on their websites in case you missed their recall mailings. You normally just need to provide basic information and your car's Vehicle Identification Number.

Unfortunately, it seems that Takata still has more recalls ahead of it which means car owners need to remain vigilant in case their car is recalled, or recalled again, in the future.

Do Ignition Interlocks Have A Blind Spot?

An ignition interlock is a device that can be wired into a vehicle's electrical system in order to make sure it cannot be started until the driver provides a breath sample to be checked for signs of alcohol. There are now some 300,000 ignition interlocks in active use in the U.S. and that number is growing rapidly. It seems pretty self explanatory that these devices can save live. They prevent drivers from starting their vehicles while intoxicated. That has to be a win for vehicle safety, right? Well, not always.

A recent article in the New York Times highlights a potential fatal flaw in these ignition interlocks: Almost all of them make drivers perform checks at random times while the vehicle is moving. This feature is meant to stop someone from beginning a drive sober but having drinks along the way, but as shown in the Times' article, randomly asking a driver to do any task beyond driving can be extremely hazardous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration looked like it was going to outlaw rolling retests, but it dropped a mandate that drivers pull over to retest after receiving intense industry pushback. How a driver would even pull over while in fast moving traffic is a question that no one from the government or ignition interlock industry really wanted to answer.

The Times did some investigation work and found over fifty incidents that ignition interlocks were cited as a reason for an accident or crash in Virginia alone. But, the Times notes, this number is almost certainly heavily under reported. And the data comes from just one state. The fact that most of the reported accidents came back when there were far fewer ignition interlocks on the road is also a bit worrisome.

In addition to ignition interlocks potentially being more distracting than cell phones, there is also the issue of false positives, the Times says. Ignition interlocks use the same alcohol sensing equipment that portable police breathalyzer units use, but those units are known to be imprecise, especially when not properly maintained, and sometimes tests conducted with them are not allowed as evidence in court.

Again, it seems like common sense that these ignition interlocks can save lives by preventing intoxicated drivers from starting their cars in the first place, but it does seem more questionable that drivers are asked to perform rolling retests while driving when study after study shows that even minor distractions while driving can lead to a collision.

The full article over at the New York Times provides more examples of how these ignition interlocks seem to have some blind spots. You can give it a read by clicking here.