Toyota has recalled nearly three million RAV4 SUVs worldwide for seatbelt defects. According to a report in The New York Times, the rear seatbelts in the recalled vehicles could become separated or severed during a car accident, leaving occupants unprotected. The defective seatbelts are suspected in two crashes, one of which killed a passenger.
The recall affects only one model. But, the Times reports that it follows a disturbing series of discoveries over the last year of flaws in crucial auto safety equipment, most notably, tens of millions of faulty Takata airbags. Toyota says it still can’t confirm if the one fatality in Canada was caused by seatbelt failure. Under half of the 2.8 million recalled vehicles affected by the recall are in North America. The vehicles included in the recall were manufactured between 2005 and 2014.
The Problem with the Seatbelts
Toyota said it traced the problem back to the design of metal seat-cushion frames in the SUV’s rear seats. In a severe frontal crash, the metal frames could slice through the seatbelts, cutting them and leaving the passengers unrestrained. Toyota said the seatbelts themselves were safe and that the problem was not caused by a particular supplier. When this recall begins, dealers will fix the problem by adding resin covers to the frames.
Defective Seatbelts and Crash Investigations
This recall reminds us why it is important to thoroughly investigate each and every accident where a vehicle occupant is partially or fully ejected. These are the types of accidents that cause catastrophic or fatal injuries. However, law enforcement agencies often don’t have the knowledge, the resources or the time to properly investigate accident cases where an occupant has been ejected. Usually, in such cases, the police report might state that the individual was not wearing his or her seatbelt.
This is why it is critical for victims or their families to get an experienced seatbelt defect attorney on their side who will look for signs of seatbelt failure. The type of defect that prompted the recall of millions of Toyota RAV4 SUVs can be extremely dangerous because these faulty seatbelts do not protect occupants in the event of a crash. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a defective seat belt, contact an auto defect law firm that will help protect your rights and hold the at-fault manufacturer accountable.