A Texas high school senior is the latest victim of an exploding Takata airbag according to a Reuters news report. It’s the tenth U.S. death linked to the faulty airbags that can rupture and send shrapnel flying into vehicles.
Honda and U.S. safety regulators say the 17-year-old driver died last month when the airbag ruptured in her 2002 Honda Civic. The accident happened in Fort Bend County, Texas, in the Houston area, on March 31 during a rear-end crash. She ran into the back of an SUV while waiting for traffic to clear and make a turn.
Investigators say excessive speed was not involved and the teen was was wearing her seat belt.
“Everybody should have walked away from this,” Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Beckwith said in an interview. He said shrapnel punctured the airbag and sliced the young woman’s neck and carotid artery. She died at the scene.
Honda says it had sent multiple recall notices to the Civic owner, as it was on the recall list, but repairs were never made. Honda spokesman Jeffrey Smith says the automaker has more than doubled the size of its customer relations team working on this issue.
“This is a very motivated, dedicated and engaged group, working seven days a week to help customers get their vehicles repaired,” Smith said.
He said Honda has sent more than 9.9 million mailers, 11.9 million postcards, 4.5 million emails, 12.8 million direct and automated phone calls and used targeted advertising, social media and other efforts.
Out of the 10 U.S. deaths blamed on exploding Takata airbags, nine have been in Honda vehicles. One involved a Ford Ranger pickup. Overseas, a pregnant woman was killed from an exploding airbag in Malaysia in July 2014.
As reported by Reuters, Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement it “has demanded that manufacturers work to a 100 percent completion rate, and take all efforts necessary to reach that goal.”
“This incident highlights that the conventional approach to recall notification alone is inadequate. NHTSA is renewing its call to all auto manufacturers involved in the Takata airbag recall to intensify and expand their outreach to affected vehicle owners,” it said.
As of last month, NHTSA reported that automakers have replaced more than 7.5 million defective Takata inflators, or about a third of those recalled through December. Honda has the highest completion rate of any automaker, having replaced about 5.4 million inflators, or 54 percent of vehicles it had recalled through December.
As of now, the Takata airbag recall, the largest automotive recall in history, involves 14 automakers and 24 million vehicles.
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