Contrary to popular belief, airbags are not soft pillows that float out like clouds when needed. Rather, these supplemental restraints more closely resemble tightly packed explosives. The inflation system is comparable to that of a solid rocket booster, and deployment clocks in at almost 200 miles per hour. Activation comes without warning, filling the space and beginning to deflate in less time than the blink of an eye. Sometimes, airbags prevent injuries; other times they cause them, such as when they deploy too late, too early, inadvertently, or too forcefully. Any of these issues can be caused by defective design or manufacture, which is the heart of the problem with Takata airbags.
These airbags have been dominating the headlines in the last few years as the initial recall of 4,000 Hondas has developed into a massive safety concern covering one out of every five cars on U.S. roads. Close to 70 million Takata airbags have been recalled, affecting at least 42 million vehicles in this country made by 19 different automakers. The trouble lies with the chemistry, which results in the airbags becoming less stable over time. When there is a crash, airbags fill with gas created by a burning propellant. This propellant lives as a solid in a metal tube (an inflator) until ignition.
Takata’s propellant is ammonium nitrate, which is prone to instability after long-term exposure to changes in temperature and moisture. The five major airbag manufacturers have each developed their own chemical propellant, but so far, only those made by Takata have experienced rupturing of the inflator due to the forceful explosion of the unstable compound. The metal shards have been sprayed into the passenger compartment upon deployment, resulting in 11 deaths and 180 injuries. There have also been instances of improper inflation, such as during low-speed collisions or no collision at all. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that the lack of a chemical drying agent is the root of the problem.
These vehicles are at the greatest risk for exploding airbags and should not be driven until the airbags are replaced:
- Acura CL: 2003
- Acura TL: 2002, 2003
- Honda Accord: 2001, 2002
- Honda Civic: 2001, 2002
- Honda CR-V: 2002
- Honda Odyssey: 2002
- Honda Pilot: 2003
While Takata airbags are in vehicles across the nation, those in South Florida are of particular concern. These “ticking time bombs … are too dangerous to be on the road,” according to Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez. Since environmental moisture and high temperatures can hasten the airbag’s deterioration, the heat and humidity in this area place our communities at elevated risk. With an estimate of as many as 200,000 defective airbags in Miami-Dade County alone, it’s important for drivers to check their VIN here or here to see if their vehicle has airbags that need to be fixed.
We Can Help
If you’ve already been involved in a car accident and suspect your injuries were related to the airbag, it’s important to consult an attorney to find out your rights. At Stabinski Law, we have successfully represented victims throughout South Florida who have been seriously hurt by defective products. We have also assisted families who have lost loved ones to defective cars and trucks. For over 45 years, we have been helping injured consumers put their lives back on track and we are ready to help you. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to contact us by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a free case evaluation form.