Being in a car accident is never fun. In fact, it’s usually terrifying and dangerous. But that’s what airbags are for, right? To keep us safe in the event of a car accident?
We thought so, until recently. It’s true, we knew that you shouldn’t put your baby car seat in the front seat because the airbag could hurt them, and we knew that you could get a friction burn from them opening so fast. But flying shrapnel? What’s safe about that?
It’s true; there has been a massive airbag recall in the United States, covering many millions of vehicles, because of a faulty inflator and propellant device. Takata, the Japanese supplier, has made airbags that may deploy improperly in a crash, shooting metal fragments into the passengers of the vehicle. Not good.
When Takata announced the problem in April of 2013, there were only six car makes indicated with the problem. But by the time Toyota announced its recall in June 2014, that rose to almost two dozen makes and models of vehicles. Also, Takata admitted that they had little to no knowledge of which cars may have their faulty inflators, as well as saying they had no idea what the root cause of the problem was.
Since it seemed that cars in high-humidity areas were more at risk, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration forced recalls in Florida, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to name a few. They removed parts from these recalled cars and sent them to Takata for investigation. So far there has been 139 reported injuries across all automakers, according to a New York Times report in September, including at least two deaths and 30 injuries in Honda vehicles.
Why is the Honda data important? Well, it seems (allegedly) that both Honda and Takata knew about the fault airbags way back in 2004, but failed to notify the NHTSA then, nor in 2008 when other recalls began. Even scarier, Reuters found documents that suggest Takata confirmed serious issues with the airbags’ inflators in 2004. And although their engineers started researching solutions at that time, they failed to inform federal safety regulators and, as if that wasn’t enough, Takata executives ordered the data and physical evidence destroyed.
Part of the problem also could be that Takata’s plant in Mexico allowed a defect rate six to eight times above acceptable limits, according to the documents Reuters reviewed, which would account for why rust, bad welds and even chewing gum in one inflator were the cause of the defects.
Now the NHTSA is pushing Takata and five automakers to expand their regional recall to a nationwide scale, quoting Takata’s unwillingness to move fast enough on the issue.
Do you have one of these airbags? Please refer to this Car and Driver article for a comprehensive list.
And please call us to make sure that your car insurance is up to date and covers you for all you need: 714-838-1911.