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NHTSA chief says ‘aging’ may be part of bad air bag problems

There’s a word for old motor vehicles. They’re called rattletraps. It’s not clear who coined the word or when. One online source suggests that it dates back to 1766. What is apparent is that it has always referred to rickety old modes of transportation.

Over the decades, enhancing motoring safety has been a significant area of government focus. For example, in 1989, rules were issued requiring carmakers to equip all vehicles with some sort of passive restraints. By the middle of the 1990s, the rules narrowed to a mandate for air bags. Today, air bags are viewed as perhaps the most important safety technology available. More than 300 million vehicles equipped with bags have been sold in the U.S. alone.

That might suggest that older vehicles, even those 20 or 30 years old, don’t warrant being called rattletraps, but the head of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration suggests the moniker might apply appropriately to some of the air bags themselves.

Mark Rosekind is on record as saying that aging or decay of air bags is something that is being considered as part of the massive investigation into apparently defective air bags made by Japan’s Takata Corp. and ARC Automotive Inc., a Tennessee based air bag maker.

Faulty Takata air bags are blamed for at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries. ARC-made bags are blamed with injuring two individuals. Explosive inflating devices that sent metal shrapnel flying are suspected in each of the cases.

Rosekind is quick to note that officials are still trying to nail down the exact reason why the bags failed. Many experts, though, say the evidence seems to indicate that the chemical propellants used for inflation seem to degrade over time, suggesting that age of the bags may be a factor.

Amid the unknowns, one thing is clear. Victims injured due to defective products have a right to seek compensation for the damage they suffer. Learning more about your rights and protecting them is best done by consulting with an experienced attorney.