December 20, 2017
There are many things that can go wrong on your regular commute: traffic jams, accidents, and road closures. But American drivers may have a new road hazard to fear; their own airbags exploding.
In July 2017, a Florida driver was killed in a crash due to a rupture in their 2002 Honda Accord’s airbag. This marks the thirteenth case in the U.S. where an automobile death was directly linked to faulty Takata airbags. In addition to these deaths, nearly two hundred injuries have also been recorded.
Takata is a Japanese supplier of automobile safety devices, specializing in airbags. At their peak, Takata supplied more than a fifth of the world’s airbags.
In 2014, statements were issued recalling cars with Takata airbags. The airbags would open improperly by ways of a chemical propellant without the proper drying agent. This reaction results in the steel encasement shattering, sending shards of metal flying towards the vehicle’s passengers.
The Takata airbag recall would eventually become the largest safety recall in automobile history, with millions of units affected. The company filed for bankruptcy in June of 2017.
The cars most likely to be affected were those produced from the years 2002 to 2015. Over 30 brands of cars were affected in this recall. Among the most recalled vehicles are Honda, Dodge, Ford, Nissan, and Toyota. Older cars are at a higher risk due to the degraded amounts of ammonium nitrate propellant in the airbags. It is projected that over 70 million vehicles were outfitted with faulty Takata airbags. This amounts to almost a quarter of all American cars. Takata and car dealerships have made numerous efforts to contact customers with defective automobiles.
Safety recalls are not new territory for Takata. From 1986 to 1991, many Takata seatbelts were found to have trouble latching shut or staying latched. Over 8 million vehicles were estimated to be at risk. At the time, it was one of the largest recalls ever issued. Now years later, Takata has managed to top itself with their airbag recall.
As of today, more than half of the deadly airbags still have not been fixed. They are still on the road and pose a serious safety risk to drivers and passengers. Large scale recalls like this don’t happen often, but the auto industry needs to learn and use this as an example to keep events like this from ever happening again. Automakers need to invest in more research and development, more testing, and more time needs to be invested in taking a closer look at the materials used in manufacturing and how they age over time. Automakers should take this recall as a learning lesson and put protocols in place to make sure that this does not happen again.
If you suspect that your vehicle may be affected, you can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. This search tool allows you to see any recalls or safety risks your model may have.