Federal safety officials urged all vehicle owners to immediately check to see if their vehicles have an open Takata air-bag recall.
The Takata-exploding-airbag saga, which began more than a decade ago, has claimed another victim, federal safety regulators said.
And that incident prompted a warning to drivers from the U.S. traffic-safety agency.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Dec. 9 that one person was killed in a crash in a 2002 Honda Accord, in which the Takata driver’s-side air bag inflator ruptured.
Honda said the crash occurred on Feb. 22 in Bowling Green, Ky.
“The driver of the vehicle sustained injuries from the ruptured inflator and subsequently died,” the company said in a statement. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the driver.”
The latest death brings the total number of confirmed fatalities due to ruptures of Takata inflators to 23, four of them confirmed in 2022, NHTSA said.
“Whatever you’re doing, stop now and check to see if your vehicle has a Takata air bag recall. If it does, make an appointment to get your free repair as soon as possible,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said in a statement.
“If this air bag ruptures in a crash, it could kill you or someone you love, or leave them with critical, life-altering injuries.
“Every day that passes when you don’t get a recalled air bag replaced puts you and your family at greater risk of injury or death,” Carlson added.
Check Now for Open Air-Bag Recall in Your Model
NHTSA urged all vehicle owners to immediately check to see if their vehicles have an open Takata air-bag recall.
If they do, owners should contact their dealerships to schedule free repairs as soon as possible and follow any warnings from the vehicle manufacturer.
NHTSA said that even minor crashes can result in exploding air bags that can kill or produce life-altering gruesome injuries.
Older-model-year vehicles put their occupants at higher risk, as the age of the air bag is one of the factors contributing to these incidents.
Honda said it had confirmed 17 deaths and more than 200 injuries in the U.S. related to Takata frontal driver’s airbags due to inflator ruptures.
Three other automakers have experienced a total of six fatalities in the U.S. due to ruptures of Takata airbag inflators.
The automaker said that starting in June 2011, it had made more than 300 attempts to reach the owner of this vehicle, who purchased the car in 2008.
This included more than 40 mailed notices to the registered address, over 230 phone calls, and over 40 email notifications, the company said, adding that. “our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed.”
Earlier Vehicle Was Under a ‘Do Not Drive Warning’
“American Honda continues to urge owners of Honda and Acura vehicles affected by the Takata airbag inflator recalls to get their vehicles repaired at authorized dealers as soon as possible,” the automaker said.
Older vehicles, especially certain 2001-2003 model year vehicles, have a heightened risk of an airbag inflator rupture and pose the greatest safety risk.
This latest death follows NHTSA’s announcement on Nov. 17 that one person was killed after a crash in a 2006 Ford Ranger, where the inflator of the Takata driver’s-side air bag ruptured. The vehicle was already under a “do not drive” warning, the agency said.
Earlier that month, FCA US, a subsidiary of Stellantis (STLA) – Get Free Report, and federal regulators issued a “Do Not Drive” warning for about 276,000 vehicles following the deaths of two people in crashes where the Takata driver’s-side air bags exploded.
The defective airbags were also suspected in the death of a third person.
Takata, which began making airbags in the late 1980s, used an ammonium-nitrate-based propellant to create a small explosion that fills the airbag quickly during a crash.
In November 2008 Honda issued the first recall for Takata driver-side inflators with improperly manufactured propellant wafers.
In 2013, Takata filed a defect report stating that certain passenger-side airbag modules may rupture as a result of manufacturing errors that are aggravated by exposure to hot and humid environments.
The Largest Safety Recall in U.S. History
The company admitted that their Mexican subsidiary had mishandled the manufacture of explosive propellants and improperly stored chemicals used in airbags.
Takata filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and was acquired by Key Safety Systems.
Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled to replace front airbags on the driver’s side, passenger’s side or both in what NHTSA has called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”
A 2016 report by the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation said that Takata apparently manipulated test data and did not do enough to address safety concerns.
The report found “at the very least, a failure by Takata to ensure the integrity of its testing of inflators or to respond appropriately to ethical concerns raised to senior Takata personnel.”
In 2017, Takata agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from what the U.S. Department of Justice called the company’s fraudulent conduct in relation to sales of defective airbag inflators.
Three Takata executives were also charged with wire fraud and conspiracy.
Justice Department officials said that “Takata repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related to the safety of its products, putting profits and production schedules ahead of safety.”