Texas Teen Killed by Defective Takata Airbag

Eleven Takata Airbag fatalities so far

On March 31, 2016, a 17-year old Texas woman died from injuries she sustained when her 2002 Honda Civic collided with another vehicle in Fort Bend, Texas, causing the Takata airbags to activate.  The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed that the defective Takata airbag ruptured and shot shrapnel into the victim’s neck. The Texas teen is one of eleven reported Takata airbag shrapnel fatalities.

What is causing the Takata shrapnel phenomenon?

It has been well documented that Takata airbag inflators can explode with too much force and shoot metal shrapnel into the bodies of vehicle occupants.  Several victims have taken metal shards to the neck. Independent studies commissioned by Takata focused on root causes of the exploding Takata airbag phenomenon.  The main finding focused on Takata’s use of ammonium nitrate to inflate its airbags.  Takata is the only manufacturer to use ammonium nitrate as a propellant to inflate its airbags.  When the chemical compound ammonium nitrate comes into contact with moisture, it becomes very unstable and volatile.  People inside vehicles in humid areas of the world and people in vehicles exposed to much precipitation are at risk if they get into a front-end crash of having metal shrapnel shot into their upper bodies.   The 2002 Honda involved in the recent fatality had been registered in the high-humidity Gulf Coast region its entire life.

The Takata airbag recall

According to NHTSA, the Texas victim’s 2002 Honda had been recalled in 2011, but the defective Takata airbag had not been repaired.

“NHTSA is renewing its call to all auto manufacturers involved in the Takata air-bag recall to intensify and expand their outreach to affected vehicle owners,” agency spokesman Bryan Thomas said.

The brother of the victim denied that his family ever received a recall notice.  Takata estimated this week that a comprehensive recall of its airbag inflators would cost about $24 billion.  So far, Takata has recalled certain airbags in response to reports of fatalities.  Many Takata airbags either have not been recalled or have been recalled but not repaired or replaced.  Consumers can find out if their vehicle has been the subject of a Takata airbag recall by going to safercar.gov and inserting the VIN in the yellow “Search for Recalls by VIN” box located at the top right of the page.

Takata has been dragging its feet on recalling all of its defective Takata airbag inflators.  Consumers should not rely on Takata or NHTSA to notify them.  Be proactive.  Go to the safercar.gov website and find out if your vehicle has been recalled – particularly if you live in a humid region.   Don’t risk becoming the 12th victim of death by shrapnel.