We generally take certain principals for granted. The more water you drink, for example, the healthier you'll be. The more time you spend reading car news on Autoblog, the better informed you'll be. And the more airbags your car has, the safer you'll be. Because airbags equal safety. But that's not what some unfortunate drivers of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags are finding, and tragically finding out the hard way.
In what could be the most startling incident resulting from the airbag debacle so far, a woman named Hien Tran of Orlando, FL, was killed by what looked at first like stab wounds on her neck. It later emerged that the fatal injuries could have been inflicted by the faulty airbag on her Honda Accord. Tran bought her Honda secondhand, and may not have been aware that the airbag issue had not been addressed by its previous owner in a previous recall in 2009.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department is investigating the death, but it wouldn't be the only injury resulting from the malfunctioning Takata airbags. The units, employed particularly by Japanese automakers like Honda (which owns part of Takata) and Toyota, are the subject of a massive recall involving some 14 million vehicles from 11 different automakers.
The problem revolves around a propellant that, particularly in humid climates, could deploy the airbag unexpectedly, in some cases even sending metal shards from the airbag's casing flying through the cockpit. To date there have been some 139 injuries reported, including 37 from airbag explosions.
The urgency of the matter has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue an "act immediately" warning to owners of affected vehicles to get their airbags fixed. However there may not be enough parts for all the airbags in all the millions of affected vehicles to be replaced immediately. Some automakers concerned are addressing the issue first in warm-weather regions before replacing airbags in vehicles located elsewhere, but it will likely take some time before all the problematic equipment is repaired or replaced.