When you purchase a vehicle, you are putting your faith in its ability to get your from Point A to Point B safely, excluding of course driver error, which the vehicle is never responsible for. But what happens when your vehicle malfunctions, and more specifically, what if the safety systems built into the vehicle malfunction, putting you at great risk?
That's the question that Joanne and Rick Yuke are asking themselves now that they have experienced problems with their 2006 Honda Odyssey's airbag system on multiple occasions. The couple, who live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, have had their side airbags deploy on their own without cause, while they have been driving, twice.
The second time that this happened was on Canadian Thanksgiving in October of this year. They were driving along a dirt road in rural Saskatchewan, Joanne was driving, but her husband and her sister-in-law were riding in the car as well, when the side airbags deployed on their own.
"There was a very loud bang," Rick said. "They just went off. It scared the heck out of me."
"We sat there for some time just kind of taking into account what had happened. Rick was sitting in the passenger seat — his shoulder was very sore, my head was sore, my ear was ringing terrible," Joanne said.
Rick's sister suffered a pretty severe bruise to her stomach region when the airbags suddenly went off.
But who is on the hook when these airbags go off without any cause?
It turns out that when these airbags go off and there hasn't been a collision, that the drivers often find themselves being held responsible for all damages and repairs. Insurance companies tell drivers to take a hike because there wasn't an accident. And manufacturers pass the buck along to the driver, blaming driver error or road conditions.
After the airbags went off for the second time, the Yukes went back to deal with Honda Canada, asking if they could potentially trade in the van, even if it meant paying a little bit extra to get the car that they want. Honda Canada "hasn't been able to come to an agreement" with them to this point.
Peter Keith, an accident reconstruction expert took a look at the Yukes' vehicle and determined that the airbags went off because of an internal system error, not driver error or road conditions.
"The software misinterpreted the information coming into the vehicle, deployed the airbags when it shouldn't have … This is not unique. I've seen this problem before myself," Keith said.
"It's just wrong that we had a vehicle that was worth $8,000 and now it's worth zero and for us to finance another vehicle, we just can't do that," Joanne said.
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