Honda revealed another confirmed U.S. driver death due to a ruptured Takata airbag inflator, making it the 17th linked to Takata airbags here in the U.S. The automaker said that, along with the NHTSA, it had determined that an Aug. 20 crash of a 2002 Honda Civic in Mesa, Ariz., had caused the death of a driver.
Airbags produced by Japanese supplier Takata have been the subject of a massive worldwide recall spanning over a dozen automakers and 100 million vehicles from the past two decades. The propellant tablets in the airbag modules have a tendency to degrade over time due to age and environmental factors, such as a humid climate. If triggered in a crash, they can deploy with greater than designed force, sending metal and plastic shrapnel into the face and neck of the driver. In several instances, the crashes that caused airbags deployment had been minor, but the airbags themselves caused injuries to the driver and passengers.
The latest death perhaps reflects the inherent limitations of a recall as massive as this one, which included 40 million vehicles sold in the U.S. Despite an effort that included employees knocking on the doors of owners, the age of some of the affected vehicles almost puts them off the radar, making it difficult for automakers and the NHTSA to reach those who may still be driving the vehicles with faulty airbags. In the course of the recall, Honda even sent teams to junkyards to remove airbag modules out of junked vehicles, for fear that their parts could be reinstalled in cars that are on the road.
The next most recent U.S. death linked to a Takata inflator occurred in June 2018, when Armando V. Ortega died after being taken to an emergency room following a crash in his 2002 Honda Civic. That death also took place in the state of Arizona, but was not linked to a Takata airbag until April 2019.
Last month Honda reached a settlement with 46 U.S. states for its part in the Takata investigation, agreeing to pay $85 million and adopt new safety protocols for testing components manufactured by suppliers.
“As a part of the settlement Honda will also be required to adopt new product safety protocols involving suppliers, including demanding test records for airbag propellants,” the consent order stated in part.
The automaker was also mandated to continue the recall campaign and to publicize the recall process.
Visit the NHTSA site dedicated to this recall to check if your vehicle is on the list.
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