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Carlos Solis never knew he was driving with a “shrapnel bomb” inside his steering wheel.

This story also appeared in USA TODAY

The 35-year-old father of two was waiting to make a left turn on a suburban road outside Houston when another car struck the front end of his Honda Accord, triggering its airbags.

Instead of protecting Solis, the defective airbags shot a piece of metal into his neck and severed his carotid artery, killing him within minutes.

Solis knew nothing about the danger: A used-car dealer sold him the car without fixing the airbags or warning him that Honda had recalled the vehicle three years earlier, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.

By the time Solis was killed in 2015, similar accidents were piling up across the country amid an unprecedented series of recalls for an array of dangerous defects — from shrapnel-flinging airbags to ignition switches that shut off engines.

For auto dealers, the string of accidents was a warning sign of what was to come: a barrage of lawsuits filed against them for selling recalled used cars without fixing them first.

Auto dealers came up with a plan to pre-empt the problem.

They crafted what’s known as “model legislation” that would allow them to continue selling recalled used cars, so long as they disclosed open recalls to customers — somewhere in a stack of sales documents. They then turned to their army of lobbyists — more than 600 on call in 43 states — to help get the measure passed, one state at a time.

The effort is paying off.

During the past five years, versions of auto dealers’ copycat bill have been introduced in at least 11 states — California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. So far, only Tennessee and Pennsylvania have adopted them, but Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey and New York still have measures under consideration.

The success of auto dealers’ effort is a case study in how special interest groups with deep pockets go from state to state with model legislation — copy-and-paste measures that can be handed to friendly lawmakers in any state — to get the policies they want, often with little public scrutiny and sometimes with tragic consequences.