A Florida man is suing Takata and Honda after he lost an eye in a low speed collision due to a faulty air bag. Traveling just 15 mph in a 2001 Honda Civic, Corey Burdick collided with another car. He likely would have escaped the minor incident uninjured; however, his Honda’s Takata air bag exploded in his face. Shrapnel from the explosion shot into his right eye.
Mr. Burdick now appears in a consumer group’s warning video, saying, “I lost my eye because of a defective airbag. Take your car in today, so this doesn’t happen to you.”
ConsumerWatch.com has told Honda and Acura owners not to drive their autos until they replace the faulty air bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also advised owners of 2001-03 Hondas and Acuras to have air bags replaced immediately. NHTSA says air bag inflators in those autos have a 50 percent chance of exploding in an accident.
Biggest Auto Recall in History
Replacing air bags, however, isn’t easy. Many owners who visit dealers for replacement are finding the necessary parts are out of stock. Takata and other auto industry companies are wrestling with their biggest auto recall in US history. CNN has reported that Takata may not have enough replacements until 2019.
13 Deaths, 100 Injuries
Waiting for proper parts, however, is not an option for many car owners. At least 13 people have been killed and more than 100 injuries have been blamed on the faulty air bags.
Mr. Burdick’s case is one of at least three possible Takata air bag malfunctions that have caused serious injury or death in Florida. NHTSA has said the air bag problem appears more likely to be triggered in states with higher temperatures and higher humidity; igniters exposed to hotter temperatures can tend to degrade more quickly.
Air Bag Defects in 7.8 Million Autos
The NHTSA says that air bags in about 7.8 million vehicles could have similar defects. Owners of cars covered by the recall should replace their air bags immediately, the agency said in a statement. Recalls began in 2008, according to Honda, and have been expanded since.
NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement: “Responding to these recalls, whether old or new, is essential to personal safety and it will help aid our ongoing investigation into Takata air bags.”
The air bag recall includes cars made by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota, and model years from 2000 to 2011, says the NHTSA.
Honda sent Recall Notice to Car Owner
A Honda spokesman said Honda sent a recall notice to the Civic’s registered owner, before the crash. A Honda spokesman said: “Honda is always concerned when one of its customers is injured and Honda is actively working with Mr. Burdick and his counsel in an effort to resolve his claim.”
Igniter Problem in Air Bag
The air bag explosions are most likely caused by an igniter in the air bag, says Sean Kane, founder and president of Safety Research & Strategies, a consulting company based in Massachusetts.
Mr. Kane said that when a vehicle’s sensors detect a crash, sodium azide (a chemical compound) is heated up until it decomposes, producing enough nitrogen gas to fill the air bag. But if an igniter is over-pressurized or improperly welded, it can explode and send metal fragments through the air bag and toward the driver and/or passengers.
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