The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a press release on October 20, 2016, confirming the eleventh U.S. death tied to an exploding Takata airbag.
Nearly 70 million Takata air bags have been recalled worldwide because of an allegedly defective design that presents a risk of rupture. Over time, the propellant (ammonium nitrate) can degrade, particularly in vehicles regularly exposed to high humidities and temperatures. This type of degradation can cause the inflator to explode upon deployment, sending small, sharp pieces of shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle.
Possible injuries include vision and hearing loss, knife-like wounds, and excessive bleeding that can lead to death.
California Woman Dies Because of Exploding Takata Air Bag Inflator
Out of all automakers in the U.S., Honda used the most Takata air bags. The vehicle in this most recent case was a Honda.
This latest incident involves a 50 year-old the driver crashed in Riverside County, California. She was driving east of Los Angeles in a 2001 Honda Civic on September 30, 2016. When her car crashed and the air bags exploded. She sustained injuries from the explosion, and later died. NHTSA investigators confirmed that the fatality was linked to a rupture in the Takata air bag inflator.
This particular car was on the recall list. In fact, it was among one of the first vehicles to be recalled back in 2008, but the repair on the vehicle was allegedly never completed.
NHTSA Identifies Group of “High-Risk” Vehicles
Back in June of 2016, the NHTSA warned owners of 300,000 Hondas and Acuras to stop driving them until their air bags were replaced, because the risk of air bag inflator explosions. They classified this group of vehicles as holding “substantially higher risk,” particularly when owned by people living in Florida, Texas, and Southern California.
But new test data on this particular subset of inflators showed a far higher risk of explosions, which is why the NHTSA asked drivers to stop driving them immediately and to take them into their dealerships for replacements. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that the tests showed as high as a 50 percent change of a rupture in a crash with these particular vehicles.
Eight of the ten confirmed U.S. fatalities have also been in cars that fall into this “high-risk” group.
So far, Honda has reported that about 70 percent of these vehicles have been repaired, but that leaves about 300,000 vehicles that haven’t.
The NHTSA has advised all drivers to check their vehicles for outstanding safety recalls at SaferCar.gov. In addition to the 2001 Honda Civic, other “high-risk” vehicles include the following:
- 2002 Honda Civic
- 2001-2002 Honda Accord
- 2002-2003 Acura 3.2TL
- 2002 Honda CR-V
- 2002 Honda Odyssey
- 2003 Acura 3.2CL
- 2003 Honda Pilot
NHTSA Fined Takata for Mishandling of Air Bag Issue
About a year ago, in November 2015, the NHTSA fined Takata $70 million because of the air bag problems, with another $130 million to be paid if the company failed to meet certain deadlines for repairs, along with other demands set forth in a consent order.
In total, about 16 deaths have been attributed to exploding air bags—11 in the U.S. and 5 more abroad—as well as over 100 injuries.