Todd Tracy, an attorney based in Texas, has been combatting the automotive industry and protecting consumers for over three decades.
However, he became a household name in the collision repair industry in 2017 with the infamous Honda Fit verdict, followed by a series of crash tests to differentiate between aftermarket and OEM parts. Now, Tracy is fighting a new battle against counterfeit airbags.
Over two years ago, 34-year-old Sarah Loughran died in a head-on, single-vehicle collision in Highland Park, Texas. Tracy’s team led an investigation to figure out why the airbag failed to deploy, causing fatal injuries.
After 18 months of research, they discovered the reason the airbag never deployed: “We were focusing on the steering assembly and literally, I think there may have been an angel that day, because the steering hub fell out, and we saw putty and a rag in there and it was never going to fire, because there was no igniter, squib or airbag in place,” Tracy said.
Tracy’s team spent a year and a half researching the vehicle—wondering why the airbag didn’t deploy. He said at first, the team had to see if it was an issue pertaining to sensors and, or electronics.
“Upon downloading the vehicle’s ACU, we determined there was a signal sent which would have been sent at 25 milliseconds, but nothing fired,” Tracy said. “A sufficient change in velocity was reached, but no airbag fired. The pretensions fired at 16 milliseconds, so we had to start asking ourselves if we had electronics issues, since we didn’t have sensor issues; yet, we never found an interruption of electricity.”
When Tracy and his team looked at the actual airbag assembly, they first drew notice to the hub being replaced by a shop rag. Someone stamped SRS on the hub and used counterfeit fabric, he said.
“I can’t tell you how many tens of thousands of dollars we spent trying to figure it out,” said Tracy. “I guarantee you there are cars driving around Dallas-Fort Worth [with airbags] that will not fire. There could be other Sarah’s out there right now. All that is keeping them alive is not having an accident.”