The paper cites several horrifying stories about head-on crashes in which the airbags failed to deploy and occupants died. After crunching numbers on thousands of fatal crashes, the paper's staff found a surprising number of deaths that might be blamed on faulty airbags. But the project went further and eliminated any that might be questionable and ended up with what the story calls a "conservative" estimate. If their methodology is correct, at least 1,400 people died from 2001 to 2006 in frontal crashes when their cars' airbags did not inflate at all.
While that number is disturbing, what we find more troubling is the paper's tales of investigations into faulty airbags that seem to drag on forever before a recall is issued, in at least one case, allowing more fatalities. And don't think your car is exempt. The story says all manufacturers have had reports of defective airbags.
These findings should not just scare, but also remind everyone not to count on airbags alone and reinforce the wisdom of buckling up.
Oh, by the way: before commenting that this is nothing but a sensationalistic story to sell papers, read the articles. These guys did tons of research and talked to former and current NHTSA employees, then produced a series of what read like balanced, level-headed journalism.
[Source: The Kansas City Star]