Takata Airbag Crisis Continues to Expand
We are in the midst of one of the largest recalls in automotive history, affecting up to 34 million vehicles just in the United States alone.
The Japanese supplier Tataka has been continually announcing recalls by the millions due to their faulty airbags placed in at least 20 different makes and models. These airbags can explode with a force so excessive, it can send metal shrapnel flying, turning the most popular safety measure into a terrifying weapon. There have been 10 deaths in the United States: the latest was a 17-year-old girl whose mild fender bender that triggered the airbag to deploy, tragically ended her life as a piece of metal shrapnel was lodged in her throat.
Last December a man died after his airbags deployed following an accident he should have been able to walk away from. After hitting a cow, his 2006 Ford Ranger’s airbags exploded, sending shrapnel flying – piecing his neck and spine. He was the first to be killed in a vehicle other than a Honda – a Ford Escape, which prompted an investigation into exactly how many vehicles are inflicted with faulty airbags.
With millions of cars being recalled, many are finding that getting their vehicles fixed is not as easy as it should seem. Millions of car owners are left waiting for weeks, even months on end to get their defective airbags replaced. Manufacturers estimate that it could reach the year 2019 before all airbags are replaced.
While Honda has been paying its dealers to provide rental cars, others have not been so fortunate and in New York City, some car owners are being forced to keep their cars on the streets. The growing number of recalls prevents dealerships from being able to provide the space to store the vehicles, which leaves it up to owners where to place their cars. Parking regulations in cities such as New York prevent people from just leaving their car unattended, so people are forced to move their vehicles, which they are not supposed to be driving, every few days.
In one New Yorker’s case, her dealership forced her to sign an agreement containing the following language “I wish to retain the Subject Vehicle in my possession until the parts necessary to complete the Subject Recall Repair become available” in order to qualify for a rental car (Glorioso, Givens, and Schreiber, May 2016). Agreeing to this statement suggests she is solely responsible for anything that might happen to her should she drive her car, putting her in a dangerous predicament.
The airbag deploying is not entirely contingent on the vehicle being impacted. The Takata airbags can also explode without warning, which prompts many drivers to abandon their car until they can get it fixed. So what is causing this to happen in the first place? The airbags are inflated by using ammonium nitrate, which needs a chemical drying agent, known as desiccant to deploy properly. If the inflator is exposed to moisture and doesn’t have desiccant, this will cause the airbag to rupture with a force that will send shrapnel flying into the driver and the passenger of the car.
What can you do to protect yourself? If you are unsure whether or not your vehicle is affected by the recall, you can find out here https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ and enter in your vehicle identification number.