You should always be able to count on your vehicle’s airbags to work when a crash occurs. What you do not expect is that the airbag will explode when it is deployed, causing serious personal injury or death. Unfortunately, there are tens of millions of vehicles under recall due to defective airbags made by Takata.
Takata Corporation has an enormous stake in the US airbag market, and many major automakers in the US use Takata airbags in their vehicles. In 2013, many of these automakers began recalling vehicles with Takata airbags after reports of injuries and fatalities became too hard to ignore. Takata is now responsible for the largest vehicle recall in history.
What causes Takata airbag problems?
Long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause these airbags to explode when they are deployed. Takata has said that all of the faulty airbags were made at or used inflator units from their Coahuila, Mexico plant. Takata says that their Mexican subsidiary mishandled the manufacture of explosive propellants and improperly stored the chemicals inside the airbags.
These airbags, when deployed, can send shrapnel into the face and body of the driver and passenger in the front seat of the vehicle.
In January of 2017, the United States charged three Takata executives for the exploding airbags as part of a product liability case. The company paid $1 billion to resolve a US Justice Department investigation into the airbag inflators linked to at least 16 deaths worldwide. Included in this amount was:
- A $25 million fine
- $125 million for victim compensation
- $850 million for auto manufacturer compensation
What kind of injuries have been reported due to Takata airbag explosions?
Airbags are supposed to inflate in a controlled, vented manner. However defective Takata airbags explode and cause shrapnel to shoot at vehicle occupants. These explosions can happen when the vehicle is involved in a crash and can also explode spontaneously.
When these airbags malfunction, it is said they sound like a shotgun blast and send debris towards vehicle drivers and passengers. Reported injuries have included fractured skulls, punctures, and lacerations.
What the NHSTA wants you to know
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) says that consumers need to be particularly aware of certain “Alpha” airbags. These are ones in certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles, 2006 Ford Ranger, and Mazda B-Series trucks. These “Alpha” airbags pose a much higher risk of explosion that could seriously injure or kill vehicle occupants. They suggest consumers owning these vehicles get the airbags repaired immediately.
- Do not drive these vehicles unless you are going straight to the dealer.
The NHSTA says that there will be more recalls coming by December of 2019. This next round of recalls could bring the total number of vehicles affected by defective Takata airbags to around 65-75 million.
What can you do to ensure you are safe?
The NHSTA says that over 40 million vehicles have been recalled so far due to these faulty Takata airbags. They say all vehicle owners should:
- Check for recalls related to your vehicle using the vehicle identification number (VIN).
- If your vehicle is under an airbag recall, take it to the dealer to get it fixed for free.
- Sign your vehicle up for recall alerts so you know if it is affected by any recalls.