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Record year for auto recalls

This year has seen a record number of vehicle recalls by the auto manufacturers. Millions of cars and truck have been recalled for various reasons, ranging from defective ignition switches in General Motors vehicles, to defective air bags in millions of cars from multiple manufacturers.

These two recalls are the most notable for the year, in part due to the incredibly slow, piecemeal actions by the carmakers. The GM ignition switch defect was first noticed in some vehicles in 2004. GM, through a haphazard process failed to recognize the defect for years. 

At the same time, the National Transportation and Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) failed to see the accidents that were caused by the defect, even when presented with reports from state law enforcement personal.

Similarly, the recall of Takata air bags was characterized by fits and starts, with Honda recalling a handful of cars, then slowly adding more and more to multiple recalls over the last ten years.

Five people have died when these air bags malfunctioned during deployment, spraying the passenger compartment with metal shrapnel from the propellant casing.

The foot-dragging has consequence; one woman died when the air bag explosion cut her so badly police at first thought she had been attacked with a knife. Her death occurred the same week that Honda mailed a notice recalling her vehicle.

NHTSA has increased pressure for all manufacturers using the Takata air bag to recall all cars, not just ones located in high humidity areas, but the regulator needs to take a much more active role in policing auto manufacturer's defective vehicles.

As the GM and Takata recalls demonstrate, with partial investigations dragging on for years, the regulator needs be more involved to ensure innocent drivers are not placed at risk to known dangers.

Detroitnews.com, "For automakers, 2014 was the year of the recall," December 22, 2014

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