Aside from functional seatbelts, the airbags of your vehicle are key safety features that your car must possess. This is because it is an effective tool in safeguarding you from any significant harm. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an estimate of 3,000 lives were saved in 2017 due to frontal airbags alone, further underscoring their importance. But though they are proven to shield you away from injuries and death, a subset of them have been known to pose impending danger on the vehicle owner and their passenger. Such are the infamous Takata Airbags. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that 19 Takata Airbag deaths have occurred due to their defects.
The airbags’ malfunction and the recall endeavors that followed after have been dubbed as the largest in history, with approximately 67 million Takata airbags currently under recall according to the NHTSA.
The Takata recall endeavor has been a build-up of the company’s shady business practices which preceded the formal defect investigation conducted by the NHTSA in 2014. Charisse Jones and Nathan Bomey of USA Today have noted that a company whistleblower, an unidentified Takata Corporation executive, has admitted in 2004 to tampering with the data concerning the company’s airbags. In 2009, an Oklahoma driver was killed as a result of the defect in his Takata airbag. In 2014, a pregnant woman in Malaysia had become another victim to a Takata Airbag death, when upon the airbag’s deployment, a metallic shaft from the defective airbag had flown and ruptured her neck. By 2016, the company had been made liable for the deaths of ten people. This number is expected to grow in the next couple of years.
The NHTSA reported that Takata airbags could erupt haphazardly when exposed to extreme heat, which may cause the metallic parts of the airbag to shoot out from within. For this reason, drivers residing in warmer climates should prioritize getting their airbags replaced if they have the Takata brand.
The oldest Takata airbags, the “Alpha” airbags, are at a higher risk for explosion, with the NHTSA reporting that almost half of the confirmed U.S. fatalities were traced back to them. The organization has stated that certain models of Honda and Acura vehicles manufactured in 2001-2003 may contain such airbags including:
2001-2002 Honda Civic
2001-2002 Honda Accord
2002-2003 Acura TL
2002 Honda CR-V
2002 Honda Odyssey
2003 Acura CL
2003 Honda Pilot
In 2019 and 2020, the NHTSA ordered a separate recall against another airbag manufactured by Takata. This time, it concerns the defect on the airbag’s faulty seal, which may lead the car’s airbag inflators to explode or not work at all. Either outcome would subject you to an even graver harm than you should care to endure. If it explodes, you may meet a similar fate as the pregnant woman in Malaysia. If it does not work, then you won’t have anything protecting you from any incoming debris that could cut and/or injure you.
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