Florida woman may be latest Takata airbag victim

Photo (c) Takata

A routine accident ended in death when the airbag in a 2002 Honda exploded

A 34-year-old Florida woman may be the 13th U.S. victim of shrapnel-shooting Takata airbags.

Federal safety regulators and Honda are looking into the July 19 accident in Holiday, Fla., which police say occurred when a 19-year-old driving a Pontiac Firebird turned in front of Nichol Lynn Barker, who was driving a 2002 Honda Accord, according to WFLA-TV.

The incident follows one reported earlier this month, which also occurred in Florida. Ramon V. Kuffo, 81, of Miami, was using a hammer to work on his 2001 Honda Accord when the driver's side airbag exploded.

Kuffo's car had been included in one of the many Takata recalls, but a Honda spokesperson said the recall was never completed on his car. 

The 2001 Accord has one of the most dangerous airbags, with as much as a 50 percent chance of exploding in a crash, the Associated Press reported. Florida, where the latest victims lived, is seen as Ground Zero for Takata airbags because of its high heat and humidity, which makes the defective Takata inflators more volatile.

In the latest accident, WFLA reported that the owner of the Accord was sent 10 notices about the recall, but the airbag was never replaced. 

More than 65 percent of the recalled airbags are still in service, meaning that millions of consumers are driving around with a potentially explosive device just inches from their face. 

Honda said it has adequate replacement parts and urged owners "to seek repair as soon as possible," Reuters reported, adding that older vehicles, especially 2001-2003 Honda vehicles, pose the greatest safety risk.

The Takata airbag recall is the largest in U.S. history, affecting more than 42 million vehicles, not counting another 2.7 million that were identified earlier this month. Takata recently declared bankruptcy, leaving carmakers potentially stuck for billions of dollars in recall-related expenses. 

What to do

Is your car included in the recall? You can find out by jotting down your VIN number and going to the U.S. government's website SaferCar.gov

If your dealer is not able to replace the defective airbag immediately, you can ask for a loaner, but dealers are not legally obligated to provide one. 

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