Airbags have had a very bad year. A series of recalls issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) and manufacturers have called into question the safety and effectiveness of airbags in several popular models of vehicles, including Toyota, Honda.
It all started with airbags manufactured by a company called Takata – airbags that were installed in some of the most popular cars in the United States. In 2014, a series of recalls were initiated by manufacturers because Takata air bags could rupture and send debris flying inside a car. Frequently that debris was metal shrapnel and, when the airbag exploded, its impact could be deadly.¹
The Takata recalls expanded again in October 2014 to cover more vehicles – by that time, over 7.8 million vehicles in the United States were subject to recalls due to faulty airbags. The massive recalls caused widespread confusion. For example, Honda “did not have enough parts to fix the cars immediately” and Toyota said “it would in some cases disable the airbags, leaving a note not to ride in the front passenger seat.”²
To compound the problem, a separate airbag recall was re-issued earlier this year for airbags that could go off while driving – even in the absence of a crash. These incidents are called “inadvertent deployments.”
The “inadvertent deployment” recall affected more than two million Dodge, Jeep, Acura, Honda, Pontiac and Toyota vehicles. Worse yet, approximately half of these vehicles are Takata airbags already subject to the earlier recall – meaning that the airbag could suffer an “inadvertent deployment” and then send metal shrapnel into the vehicle – a lethal combination.³
To date, many owners of the vehicles affected by the airbag recalls have not received notice of the recalls. To check your vehicle and see if it is subject to an airbag recall, visit the manufacturer’s website and enter your VIN, or go to the NHTSA website: http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Owners/vin-lookup-sites
To receive more information, or if you have questions, contact the consumer protection attorneys at Williams Dirks Dameron at www.williamsdirks.com.
¹ Hiroko Tabuchi and Christopher Jensen, It Looked Like a Stabbing, but Takata Airbag Was the Killer, New York Times (Oct. 20, 2014). ²Id. ³ Jeff Plungis, Automakers Can’t Make Air Bags Work, Blooomberg Business (Jan. 31, 2015).