A decade after Takata airbags began exploding, killing and injuring car drivers and passengers, thousands of vehicles equipped with these deadly devices are still on the road. And the death toll continues to rise.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports five deaths so far this year. Three of the fatalities occurred recently in Stellantis (Chrysler) vehicles. In November Stellantis issued an urgent recall of 276,000 vehicles with Takata airbags. To date, only 2,000 have been repaired, the automaker said.
Takata airbags are deadly because the device designed to inflate the airbag on impact degrades over time and can explode, sending metal particles flying through the cabin. The airbags are usually found in older cars and can sometimes deploy without the vehicle being in a collision.
When it issued its recall last month, Chrysler said the airbags were so dangerous that the vehicles should not be driven until they are repaired. The Do Not Drive order covers Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, Challenger and Charger from the 2005 through 2010 model years.
The latest death occurred in July when the airbag in a 2010 Chrysler 300 exploded, killing the driver who had borrowed the vehicle from a family member.
“Left unrepaired, recalled Takata airbags are increasingly dangerous as the risk of an explosion rises as vehicles age,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said last month. “Every day that passes when you don’t get a recalled airbag replaced, puts you and your family at greater risk of injury or death.”
What to do
In many cases, the owners of these vehicles are unaware of the danger. Older vehicles may change hands several times so the automaker has no contact information for the current owner.
If you drive an older vehicle, there is an easy way to check to see if your car is covered by the recall. NHTSA has a recall database on its website. You’ll find it here.
Type in the 17-character VIN found on the car’s registration or on the driver’s side dashboard, and learn about any open recalls on the vehicle. If there is a Takata airbag recall, do not drive the vehicle but contact a dealer to arrange a repair.