A rear-end collision that occurred on March 31 in Fort Bend County, near Houston, has taken the life of a 17-year-old Texas girl. According to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department, the crash was “moderate” and wouldn’t have caused any serious injuries. However, the exploding Takata airbag, which was supposed to save her life, is what apparently led to her death.
If confirmed, this girl is believed to be the eleventh U.S. victim of these defective air bag inflators. In addition to the eleven dead, more than 100 others have been seriously injured by the inflators, which can explode with too much force, causing a metal canister to break apart and send shrapnel into drivers and passengers. That defect has led to 14 car makers recalling more than 24 million vehicles in the US and more than 35 million worldwide.
In this case, the 17-year-old driver was operating a 2002 Honda Civic in Fort Bend County when she rear-ended another vehicle and the airbag was activated. According to the sheriff’s deputies who investigated the crash, the metal shrapnel apparently hit her neck, killing her instantly. They have not yet determined how fast she was going, but investigators said the impact was “moderate” and they believe everyone would have walked away from the crash with minor injuries if not for the airbag.
The purpose of the airbag recall is to replace the inflators, which are powered by the chemical ammonium nitrate. So far, scientists have determined that prolonged exposure to high temperatures and high humidity is causing the ammonium nitrate to deteriorate. One problem that has slowed completion of repairs under the recall has been a lack of replacement parts. Even though Takata and Honda have called on other manufacturers to make replacement inflators, only about 27 percent of the inflators have been replaced.
The Civic the girl was driving was first recalled in 2011, but despite six recall notices, the repairs were never completed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The family bought the car used, although the exact date of the purchase is unknown and they have claimed they didn’t know about the recall. The NHTSA has noted several times that car makers need to do more to notify vehicle owners and to rely less on mailed notices.
Officials with the state of Texas notified NHTSA of the crash on April 1, and agency investigators inspected the car yesterday, according to the agency.
It is important to get any and all recall repairs done as soon as possible after receiving a notice, especially with regards to a defect as serious as the Takata airbag recalls. This recall covers a lot of vehicles, and it has the potential to turn a relatively minor accident into a family tragedy, as we can see. If you haven’t received a recall notice, you can go to www.safercar.gov and input your vehicle identification number to check for any unrepaired recalls.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed in any accident that may have been caused or made worse by any vehicle defect, contact the Defective Vehicle Accident Lawyer at the Hill Law Firm immediately, so that we can help you protect your rights under the law. Initial consultations are always free.