In April, a 17-year-old girl died in a crash near Houston, Texas, when she rear-ended another car and the airbag in her 2002 Honda Civic sent shrapnel into her neck. She was the tenth person to die as a result of a faulty Takata airbag inflator, and more than 100 people have been injured by these defective car parts.
To date, 22 automotive brands have issued recalls to repair the faulty inflators, and more than 8 million repairs have been completed. But the recall continues to expand – in May, Mercedes-Benz added nearly 200,000 cars to the recall and Honda added 21 million cars. The actual number of faulty airbags is therefore hard to determine, but what is known is that people who have purchased used cars manufactured in the past 15 years may be unaware that their vehicle has been recalled.
Missed Recall Notices
The family of the young driver in Houston said they were unaware of her car being recalled, although Honda issued a statement saying it had sent six recall notices to several registered owners of that car.
Federal law requires dealerships to perform any existing recalls on new cars before selling them, but no similar law applies to the sale of used vehicles. Reputable dealerships usually perform work on used cars to address recalls, but smaller car lots and independent owners may sell cars without addressing recalls, either because they are unaware of recalls or don’t want to make the repairs.
Two lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require car owners to perform recall-related repairs before selling their vehicle. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced the bill in March that would require state motor vehicle bureaus to attach recall information to each annual renewal notification and refuse to renew registration for any cars that are not repaired.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Safer Car website includes two search tools – one using a vehicle identification number and the other using a vehicle’s make and model – to find recalls. Even if you have a car that’s already undergone repairs for a faulty Takata inflator, it’s a good idea to check again for recalls – some recalls that applied to driver’s side airbags only have now been expanded to include passenger-side air bags.
Waiting on Repairs
Some dealerships are waiting on the parts necessary to replace faulty airbags, which means many consumers are still driving their recalled vehicles. If the recall applies only to your passenger’s side, you might wish to avoid transporting passengers until your car can be repaired. If the recall applies to your driver’s side airbag, minimize driving time, if possible.
According to Consumer Reports, only Toyota recommends disabling airbags that haven’t been repaired. But the Takata defect doesn’t mean your airbag will definitely malfunction in a crash – there is a risk of that happening, but disabling airbags poses a greater risk to your safety.