Geographic or regional recalls – the practice of recalling vehicles based on their geographic location – may seem to make sense. After all, why recall a corrosion-prone spare tire carrier (as Toyota did in 2010 and 2012) in areas where rust isn't a major factor, or humidity-prone airbags (as per the Takata case) in dry climates? But the latest analysis suggests that the practice could be dangerously flawed.

Speaking with safety experts and congressional advocates, notes that the Takata airbag issue does not necessarily only affect vehicles located in states with high levels of humidity on which the massive recall campaign has focused. The problem in this case revolves around is the essential mobility of automobiles. For one thing, owners of vehicles registered in northern states (like "snowbirds" based in the northeast but spending the winter in Florida) that have not been the focus of the recall may spend extended periods of time in southern states that are, but would be left outside the geographic region addressed by the recall. For another, used vehicles are often shifted from one part of the country to another, potentially transcending such regional lines.

While the high-profile case of Hien Tran – who was apparently killed by shrapnel from the faulty airbag in her Honda Accord in Orlando, FL – may make the case for regional recalls, the three other known fatalities resulting from the problematic airbags were registered in Oklahoma, Virginia and California. Those are all states which aren't particularly humid and were thus left outside the scope of the regional recall.

Issues like these have prompted lawmakers including Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthan (D-CT) to call for new safety regulations that would eliminate the practice of geographic recalls. "To issue a selective geographic recall is absolutely irresponsible and reprehensible when people living in other states may be equally at risk," Sen. Blumenthal said in an interview with the Bureau.

For our part, we can definitely see the point in limiting the practice of regional recalls. But in the case of the Takata debacle, where automakers lack the spare parts to enact the recall on millions of vehicles across the country at once, perhaps the best approach would be to start in those states with high levels of humidity and gradually work outwards to encompass all vehicles fitted with the troublesome equipment, regardless of where they're registered.

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