A defective Takata airbag in a 2002 Honda Civic exploded on Aug. 20, killing the driver, Honda Motor Co. confirmed on Oct. 3. The driver’s death was the 17th fatality in the United States linked to defective Takata airbags.
The Japanese automaker said it conducted a joint inspection of the Honda Civic with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and determined the driver was killed when the Takata airbag inflator exploded. The company said the incident occurred in Mesa, Arizona, but didn’t provide additional details about the crash.
Takata airbags are prone to explode in even the most minor collisions, blasting vehicle occupants with metal shrapnel. The defect triggered a sprawling recall that covers 63 million airbag inflators and 19 major automakers in the U.S. An additional 40 million Takata airbag inflators have been recalled outside the U.S.
The problem stems from the chemical propellant used in the airbag inflator mechanisms. Long-term exposure to temperature fluctuations and humidity breaks down the ammonium nitrate propellant, making it hypersensitive and prone to deploy the airbag with deadly force.
The problem is especially dangerous in Honda’s seven “Alpha” model cars from the early 2000s. The front airbags in Alpha cars have a 50% chance of failing according to the NHTSA. The 2002 Honda Civic involved in the Arizona driver’s death was one of the Alpha models.
The latest death underscores the problem automakers can have repairing older recalled vehicles, many of which have changed ownership multiple times over the course of several years. According to Reuters, Honda sent more than 15 notices over an eight-year period to registered owners of the vehicle before the crash. The company also took other measures to contact owners of the vehicle. The driver killed in the Mesa crash was not one of the car’s registered owners. Honda said it could not determine whether the driver knew about the urgent airbag recall.
The Takata airbag defect has been linked to 15 deaths in Honda vehicles and two deaths in Ford vehicles since 2009. Worldwide, Takata airbags have been linked to at least 26 deaths, including the 17 U.S. fatalities. About 300 people have been injured in Takata airbag explosions.
The Aug. 20 fatality was the first Takata-linked death in the U.S. since June 2018, when an airbag exploded and killed a driver in Buckeye, Arizona. That driver was also driving a 2002 Honda Civic.
Auto Products Liability
Chris Glover, managing attorney in our Atlanta office, has handled a number of claims related to defective airbags and other cases involving auto products liability. If you feel you have a claim involving a defective airbag of any type, our attorneys would like to talk to you. You may be entitled to compensation. If you or someone you know has been involved in a vehicle accident and suffered serious injuries you feel are related to an airbag that did not operate as it should – either not deploying, or exploding with too much force – contact us today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation.
Additional source: Car and Driver