Takata’s faulty airbags claimed another victim last month, after a women died from injuries caused by the airbags in her 2001 Honda Civic, according to an Oct. 21 CBS report. The woman's accident made 2016 the deadliest year for Takata airbags, with six fatalities worldwide. This brings up a big question: Why does it seem that Takata-related deaths are suddenly occurring more often?
Delia Robles, 50, of Corona, California, died on Sept. 30, at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside, California from injuries caused by her airbag, according to CBS. Ms. Robles died when the airbags in her Honda Civic deployed after she struck another vehicle that was illegally attempting to turn in front of her.
Takata-made airbags are known to inflate with too much force, leading them to rupture and spray metal shrapnel around the interior of the vehicle. This is what reportedly killed Ms. Robles, and 15 other people worldwide.
Prior to 2015, there were only six Takata related deaths worldwide, suggesting that vehicles with those airbags — with Honda vehicles making up the bulk — are becoming more deadly, but why?
Let’s analyze what most of the Takata-related deaths have in common and see if that offers us some answers.
Takata was one of the leaders in the airbag manufacturing business and sold its products to many car manufacturers. In total, 14 automakers have had to issue recalls for tens of millions of vehicles to replace the airbags with non-lethal ones.
However, with so many manufacturers incorporating Takata airbags in their vehicles, why are Honda vehicles involved in 14 out of the 16 recorded deaths?
There could be a variety of reasons for this, but the most basic explanation is that Honda had the most Takata airbags installed in its vehicles. Thus far, Honda has had just under seven-and-a-half million airbags repaired, or 45 percent of all Honda airbags that need to be replaced, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Comparatively, Chrysler and Toyota have repaired nearly 1.4 million airbags and 1.3 million airbags, respectively, or 31 percent and 39 percent of all the airbags those manufacturers need to replace. Clearly, Honda has many more vehicles in need of repair.
This means that if you own a Honda, you could be more likely to be injured, or worse, by your airbag because more Hondas have Takata airbags than other manufacturers. If that is the case, it is doubly important that you bring your Honda in for repair if you find that a recalled was issued for it, especially if the next two things also apply to you and your vehicle.
In all but two of the 16 accidents that led to a fatality, the vehicles’ owners lived in warmer climates. All of the deaths that occurred internationally happened in Malaysia, a country located very close to the equator, while the U.S. deaths have occurred in Southern California, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, and Florida, among other states.
In these places it is more humid throughout the year, meaning there is more opportunity for humidity to build up inside the airbag. The main problem with the airbags is that ammonium nitrate, which is used to propel the airbag, is unstable around moisture. The more moisture that builds up in the airbag, the more likely they are to rupture when they are deployed in the event of an accident.
If you are driving one of the recalled vehicles in a state that is warm year-round, you are at an increased risk of being injured by your airbag. This is why NHTSA has prioritized the vehicles in warmer climates in the recall process ahead of those located in more temperate climates. However, in Pennsylvania, the northernmost state in which there was a fatality, the driver was killed during the summer. So even in states that aren’t warm year-round, there is a risk.
In all the model years that have been affected by the Takata airbag scandal and involved in a fatal accident, the newest model was from 2009. However, that is young compared to most of the vehicles, which were made in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
At the time of the accidents, nearly all the vehicles were more than 10 years old. This is important to note because the head of NHTSA, Dr. Mark Rosekind, told a congressional committee in April that “we are only seeing ruptures at seven-and-a-half years, and that is with the other risk factors involved as well.”
Dr. Rosekind’s statement suggests that vehicles with airbags that are less than seven-and-a-half years old are safe. However, the majority of vehicles involved in a fatality were not only located in a climate that makes them more susceptible to rupturing in the event of a crash, but also had airbags way too old to safely drive with.
Based on what all the vehicles involved in a Takata-related fatality have in common, it seems like these were among the most dangerous vehicles affected by the Takata recall.
First, we know that Honda has had the most vehicles involved in the recall, meaning if you are driving one, you could be more likely to have a defective Takata airbag in your vehicle. Secondly, we know that if you live somewhere warm, it is more likely that moisture will build up and cause the airbag to rupture during a crash. Finally, we also know that Takata airbags typically become dangerous around seven and a half years after they were installed.
Most of the vehicles involved in a fatal crash were Honda’s, older model years, and located in warmer climates. The longer people with vehicles like this wait to have them repaired, the more likely they are to be injured, or worse, in an accident.
I Was in an Accident Involving a Deployed Takata Airbag. Now What?
Owners of Hondas and other Takata-equipped cars who were cut in car accidents might not realize it was their airbag’s deployment that cut them — and not the accident. A medical professional might have had to remove the metal shrapnel from your body before stitching up your cuts, and at the time you might have never considered that your airbag could be the cause.
If you or someone you know was involved in a car accident in which the airbags were deployed and left you dealing with such an outcome, please contact us today for a free, no-risk consultation to see if you have a claim.
To find out if your car has Takata airbags, the federal government provides a handy tool for entering in your vehicle's VIN.