Airbag safety has been in the news for a while now, with installations subjected to increased scrutiny from regulators, as hundreds of people have been injured in accidents where the airbags exploded upon impact. Tragically, several motorists have died due to the deployment flaws.
Since 2008, millions of cars with the problematic airbags have been recalled. But unfortunately, the consequences of the faulty inflators are still being felt, as the government recently confirmed an 11th person died in a crash linked to the eight-year-old recall order.
In late September, a 50-year-old California woman died in a collision in Riverside County, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Investigators believe a rupture in the vehicle's airbag system contributed to the turn of events, making this the latest individual in the U.S. who died from a car crash and Takata airbags deployed.
Car was under recall
Perhaps the most tragic element to the incident is it could have been avoided. NHTSA reported that the woman was driving a 2001 Honda Civic, which had been under a recall order that originated in 2008, the first year the defective airbag problem came to light. However, the fix was never implemented.
In June, after learning additional information about what types of vehicles were the most likely to have the defective airbags, NHTSA issued a public service announcement, detailing the specific makes and models deemed "high-risk." This included the Honda Civic, along with the 2002 Acura TL, 2002 Honda Odyssey, 2003 Acura CL, and 2003 Honda Pilot, among others.
Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, noted at the time that there was a 50% chance of the airbag inflators exploding in a crash.
"Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired immediately, free of charge," Foxx warned.
Because the Takata Corporation is one of the largest airbag suppliers in the world, the massive recall has taken several years to investigate and implement the appropriate corrective actions. The Sept. 30 crash is the latest tragic example. However, millions of vehicles have been repaired successfully. As of Oct. 7, a total of 11.3 million airbag systems were fixed, according to NHTSA's estimates, including 6.2 million on the driver side and 5.1 million on the passenger side.
300,000 Hondas still require fixing
That said, hundreds of thousands of these faulty airbags remain unaccounted for, NHTSA reported, according to estimates from the Honda Motor Co.
Many of them may be in specific portions of the country. This past summer, as an example, over a quarter-million Houstonians were informed that they could be piloting vehicles with defective airbags. Prior to the PSA, two of the 10 people killed in crashes where the airbags were installed lived in the Greater Houston Area.
If you drive a car whose model year is 2002 or 2003 and it's a foreign nameplate, you may want to do some research on whether your vehicle needs to go back to the dealer. For more information on the history of the Takata recall, including a timeline of events, click here. AirBag Recall is an extremely user-friendly website that can assist in this regard as well.