American Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed that a defective Takata airbag inflator ruptured in the crash of a 2002 Honda Accord on January 9th in Lancaster County, South Carolina. The ruptured inflator led to the driver’s death.
There have been 16 U.S. deaths and more than 200 injuries due to ruptured Takata airbag driver’s inflators. Two other automakers have had three Takata airbag inflator fatalities, for a total of 19 in the U.S.
According to Honda, the vehicle involved had been under a recall since April 2011 for replacement of the Takata driver’s frontal airbag inflator. Honda sent mailers, and made phone calls, emails, and in-person visits, but completed no repairs. The driver killed in the accident was not the owner. It is unclear if the driver knew of the vehicle recall.
Honda has sufficient replacement inflators now to complete free repairs for any recalled Hondas and Acuras in the United States. They urge all owners of any Honda or Acura affected by the Takata airbag inflator recall to get their vehicles to an authorized dealer immediately. Older vehicles, particularly 2001-2003 model year vehicles, have an increased risk of an airbag inflator rupture, and they pose the greatest safety hazard. Owners can check their vehicles’ recall status at www.recalls.honda.com or www.recalls.acura.com.
From my experience with a Ford Ranger equipped with a Takata airbag, it took six months and two Ford dealerships to get a replacement inflator. I wondered if I was driving a time bomb, and the notion that the inflator could explode at any time was unsettling. The first dealer was unconcerned, but the second dealer, Vancouver Ford in Washington, gave me a loaner vehicle for two weeks until the repair was completed. The service manager told me Ford had authorized him to provide loaners to avoid this from occurring.
If two other automakers have had a total of three deaths, and Honda has had 16, what does that tell you about its — and/or its dealers — efforts to get all of these vehicles repaired without further injury or loss of life?