Skip to main content

Fatality Shows Need To Have Takata Airbag Recall Work Completed

The 11th confirmed fatality due to an exploding Takata airbag inflator has claimed the life of a California driver and reminds everyone to have recalls completed as soon as possible.

More than ever, the death of the 11th motorist in the ongoing Takata airbag recall should convince drivers that they must respond to any recall notices they receive from their car manufacturer as quickly as possible. It is especially true if you are driving one of the 313,000 vehicles identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as being at the highest level of risk of a fatal airbag rupture.

A Riverside County, Calif., driver operator died on Sept. 29 after her 2001 Honda Civic was involved in a crash during which the airbag deployed. The force of the deployment shattered the airbag inflator housing, and the shards scythed through the interior apparently striking and killing the operator. The death of the 50-year-old woman driver, confirmed by NHTSA and Honda, occurred following the rupture of the driver-side Takata-made airbag inflator housing.

Warning Issued In June

In June, safety regulators warned drivers to stop driving the 313,000 2001-03 Hondas and Acuras because the Takata airbags installed rendered the vehicles unsafe, said Anthony Foxx, secretary of transportation. Drivers were told to stop driving them and return them to dealers for free replacement of the faulty airbag devices. These vehicles have a manufacturing defect that made their airbag inflators up to 50 percent more likely to rupture in a crash.

Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator, reinforced his boss’ (Foxx) statement when warned that the “ airbag inflators in this particular group of vehicles pose a grave danger to drivers and passengers that must be fixed right away.”

What makes the accident that took the woman’s life even more tragic is the fact that the Civic had never been repaired despite the fact that more than 20 recall notices were sent to its various owners beginning in 2008.

With the 11th death in the United States, the global toll of fatalities linked to the Takata defect has now climbed to 16. About 100 serious injuries have also been tied to the airbag inflator problem which has sparked the largest – and most complex – auto safety recall in history.

70 Million Vehicles Recalled

All told, 70 million vehicles, equipped with Takata driver-side or front passenger-side airbags, either have been or will be subject to recall. Takata signed a consent decree earlier this year where it said its products are defective. NHTSA and Takata agreed that it would recall all of the affected airbag inflators – and, of course, the cars in which they were installed – in five separate, rolling recalls that will continue through the end of 2018.

The airbag manufacturer also agreed to stop using its favored accelerant, ammonium nitrate, to inflate airbags. It did achieve one small victory from NHTSA. If Takata can convince regulators that using ammonium nitrate with a desiccant will fix the long-term problem with the moisture-sensitive propellant, then it can continue using it. So far, tests look promising.


Parks McCants    October 21, 2016 - 9:30PM

Yes, this is tragic! But could have easily have been prevented. I've written several articles on the Takata debacle as has Marc-- all of them published in the interest of public safety. It's time for ALL late 1990 to current Honda owners to step up and contact their local Honda dealer. Or, go to the Honda recall site online and check your VIN # for recall inclusion. This is a quick, no cost repair. Do it! Stay safe.

Marc Stern    October 21, 2016 - 11:20PM

You are one the money with your comment. That said, there's no way to account for human inertia. The Civic, in question, was recalled on the order of 20 times in the last eight years. The repairs were never even attempted. The really tragic part is that this was the ultimate in preventable fatalties. Spinning out of control on ice and slamming a guardrail is an unfortunate accident. Not having had your car fixed after 20 notifications is just dereliction, plain and simple.