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Airbags are largest safety recall in U.S. history

Kentucky drivers know that getting behind the wheel of any vehicle has its risks, which are multiplied by the carelessness and/or inexperience of other drivers. Distracted, texting, speeding, eating, sleepy and drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers cause untold amounts of pain and suffering to others on roads throughout the U.S. on a daily basis. The anger, frustration and misery of thousands of people and their families who suffer vehicle accidents every year is only increased when brakes, airbags and seatbelts—meant to keep occupants safe—fail to perform their functions.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the number of airbags in a massive recall effort has reached more than 50 million, making it the largest safety recall in U.S. history. More than 37 million vehicles carry the airbags, which come from the world’s top manufacturer, Takata; the recall affects models from 19 automakers, including Nissan, Chrysler, Ford and Honda.

Consumer Reports tracks the problem with the airbags back to 2014 and a story from the New York Times that interviewed former Takata workers who claim the manufacturer knew of problems with its airbags in the early 2000s. As more and more injuries occur, as well as several deaths, thousands of airbags are recalled, but these efforts are nowhere near enough. The NHTSA fines the company for not cooperating with its 2015 investigation, followed by Takata admitting to a problem and widening the recall to include more model years and carmakers.

The agency then penalizes Takata $200 million in November, $70 million in cash fines and the rest to come if the company fails to replace its products. The NHTSA also demands that the maker phase out the creation and sales of problem airbags.

An additional 35-40 million airbags are added to the recall of about 29 million by May 2016. However, just 8 million have been replaced, while several automakers own up to selling new vehicles with the same defective airbags. The carmakers are then required to replace them by 2018.

Finally, facing a penalty of $1 billion in criminal fines and restitution to affected carmakers, Takata declares bankruptcy in February 2017 and admits to hiding safety issues with its product. Worldwide, the airbags have been linked to 23 deaths and at least 300 injuries.

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