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Topic of continuing concern: air bag safety

Motor vehicle manufacturing has been prominently marked in recent years by successive, next-stage technological developments aimed at curbing passenger car and truck accidents and improving personal injury outcomes in crashes that do occur.

Of course, air bag enhancements are central to that goal, although many New Yorkers and millions of other Americans must be wondering these days just what the heck is going on with air bag glitches that are reportedly occurring in high numbers.

Safety authorities are certainly concerned, and many transportation industry commentators are expressing frank puzzlement over multiple rounds of product recalls and newly emerging problems that are being reported with the bags.

Here's where the matter basically stands right now regarding the troublesome issue of air bags that can harm as well as protect drivers and other vehicle occupants.

First, and as noted in a recent media overview discussing air bag problems, the Japanese manufacturer Takata is in "an ongoing battle" with federal regulators concerning a reportedly high number of air bags that have the potential to burst and strike drivers and passengers with metal fragments. A massive recall has been issued to fix that problem.

Second, an additional -- and also voluminous -- recall now follows on the heels of the Takata recall that relates to another safety matter. Even though the recalls are not directly linked, NHTSA officials stress that drivers should not forgo one fix in lieu of the other, noting that both safety fixes are urgently required.

The more recently identified problem relates to so-called "inadvertent deployment" of bags (even absent an accident). The NHTSA states that it has identified about 400 instances of such deployments, including a number of occasions where vehicles had already undergone repairs.

More than two million vehicles are being recalled in North America to fix the more recently identified problem. Those vehicles range widely across a number of Dodge, Jeep, Toyota, Honda and Pontiac models.

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