The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on May 4th that the Takata airbag recall now affects 23 percent of American cars, or about one in every four cars in the country. Increasing its original recall by 35 to 40 million airbags, Takata has now recalled about 69 million airbags. It is officially the largest product safety recall in U.S. history.
Takata airbags are already blamed for over 100 injuries and 10 deaths in the United States. This isn't including two deaths reported in Malaysia. Only around eight million airbags have been replaced, and the NHTSA predicts it will be 2019 before all faulty airbags are fixed.
Why it's getting recalled
If your car is on the recall list, you should take it seriously. The faulty airbags are potentially deadly. They may explode on impact, causing shrapnel to fly out and strike drivers and passengers in the car.
People driving in hot, humid climates are especially at risk. The NHTSA believes moisture and fluctuations in temperature cause the ammonium nitrate found in the inflators to degrade over time. Cars in areas with high humidity are being given first priority for replacing the airbags.
According to the NHTSA, this includes cars originally from or ever registered in:
- Puerto Rico
- American Samoa
- S. Virgin Islands
This defect has left several people dead or severely injured after only minor accidents. Although most reports show the airbags went off after a crash, CNN reports that there was an incident where the airbag deployed after a car merely stopped at a red light.
The most recent fatality was a 17-year-old girl, Huma Hanif, driving in Texas. She was driving a 2002 Honda Civic when shrapnel ejected from the airbag killed her. Although Takata said they sent her notices about the recall, her family states they never received any.
Now, the family is suing Takata and Honda. The family and others have argued that the efforts to alert affected drivers to the issue and the recall have been inadequate.
Is your car affected?
To find out if your car is affected, check the list on the NHTSA site. Note, the site doesn't yet include the latest recalls from May 4, but will be updated as soon as possible.
If your car is listed, contact your dealership to set up a time to get your airbag replaced. Some of the brands affected include:
Since the recall affects so many vehicle makes, you may have to wait awhile before yours is replaced. If you're worried about driving your car, Consumer Reports suggests you try to use your car less.
This could mean using public transit, carpooling, using a spare car that isn't affected, or even renting a car. You can see if your dealer is willing to lend you a car while yours is waiting to be fixed.
Toyota also recommends shutting off your airbags until after they're replaced.
The Takata recall has affected Honda cars the most. Out of the 10 fatalities, nine have happened in a Honda. If you have a Honda, you can type in your VIN number here to see if your car is on the recall list. If so, the site will give you further instructions.
Details for other car makes can be found here.
What this means for your car insurance
While your insurance rates won't automatically go up because of a recall, they might eventually. One of the factors insurers look at when figuring out your premium is your car's safety record. Companies will look at how safe your car is on the road, as well as if it's considered more harmful to other (smaller) vehicles.
Cars known to have safety issues also often have higher insurance rates. If your car has multiple recalls over a long period of time, it could possibly be seen as more dangerous. This could then affect your premiums.
QuoteWizard recommends that drivers of recalled vehicles get their airbags replaced as soon as possible and notify their insurance agents or carriers that they have done so. This ensures that drivers won’t be unfairly penalized for driving a vehicle with safety issues.