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Air bags save lives, unless they're defective

In an item we wrote back in February, we examined the question of air bag value in vehicle accidents. We posed the question, "Are we safer in car crashes with air bags or without them?"

Based on the evidence of several decades of use and an estimated 40,000 lives saved, the answer to the question seems to be a fairly obvious yes. In fact, in the years since air bags were first introduced, their use has been expanded to include passenger air bags and side impact bags.

These devices, which authorities stress are meant to supplement rather than replace seat belts, have shown their worth over time. But recent events involving one air bag manufacturer points out what can happen if the bags themselves prove to be defective auto parts. And it's something every Texas driver should be paying attention to.

What we're referring to is the massive recall underway of Takata Corp. air bags. It's been found that inflators on some of the bags can become faulty, causing them to inflate with so much force that a metal canister that is part of the design can explode and send shards of metal flying into vehicle passenger compartments.

Federal safety officials say six people have died as a result of the problem, five of them in the United States. And this has prompted the recall of nearly 34 million vehicles. It's the largest recall ever in U.S history.

One thing that folks in the Galveston and League City area should be particularly aware of is that while authorities aren't sure exactly what the problem with the bags is, it appears to have something to do with long exposure to moisture in the air. The problems seem to be more prevalent in high-humidity states along the Gulf Coast.

The recall covers makes and models made by 11 different car manufacturers. And the volume of new bags that have to be made for replacement has officials saying it could take more than 2 1/2 years to complete the recall. They're urging consumers with affected vehicles to get the repairs done as soon as they can.

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