An Urgent Message From Your Airbags

This week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an urgent message to owners of 7.8 million vehicles to “act immediately” and replace defective Takata airbags which could explode. Certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and GM are involved, and you can find the entire list here. About 12 million vehicles worldwide have been recalled because of the dangerous Takata airbags.

Airbags dangerous? Aren’t they supposed to protect us from danger? Yes, and yes. NHTSA estimates that, from 1990 to 2008, nearly 300 deaths were caused by airbags, some of which happened because the airbags suddenly and inexplicably deployed or inflated with explosive force.

The Takata airbag problem first came to view way back in 2001 and has reappeared in the news in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and now several times this year. NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigations originally characterized reported incidents as “minor in nature.” Do these events sound minor to you?

In May 2009, 18-year-old Ashley Nicole Parham of Oklahoma died in a 2001 Honda Accord, after her vehicle hit another car in the school parking lot, tripping an explosion that sent a piece of metal right into her carotid artery.

In 2010, Kristy Williams, a Georgia college student, was stopped at a light, when her airbags deployed, expelling metal shards, which severed her neck and carotid artery and required two weeks in intensive care.

On Christmas Eve, Guddi Rathore was at the wheel of her 2001 Honda Accord, when a U.S. postal service truck pulled out in front of her. The minor fender bender caused the airbag to explode. The metal shards severed the arteries in her neck, killing Rathore in front of her three young children, also occupants in the Accord.

We’re relieved that the folks at NHTSA have ramped up their assessment. But that doesn’t mean the issue is closed. For one thing, owners of the vehicles involved have to heed the warning and take their cars or trucks in to have the airbags replaced. With nearly 60 million recalls in 2014 alone – for everything from faulty ignition switches to unintended acceleration to exploding airbags – are consumers likely to turn a deaf ear to urgent messages from NHTSA?

Another concern is the availability of parts to make the necessary repairs. Some dealers have reported a 90-day backlog for airbag replacements. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has urged automakers to make loaner cars available or reimburse consumers for the cost of rental cars when they can’t get the immediate repairs NHTSA is urging.

At McNeely Stephenson, we strongly encourage you to find out whether your vehicle is equipped with potentially explosive Takata airbags. You can try NHTSA’s website, but we understand it has been “experiencing technical difficulties” after the inquiries of huge numbers of people crashed it on Tuesday (a hopeful sign that people are not turning a deaf ear).

If you or your loved one has been injured by a defective vehicle component, call the Indianapolis auto recall lawyer, Mike Stephenson, at 1-855-206-2555. We’ll investigate the accident with the urgency it deserves.