Honda confirmed Saturday that a 17th death occurred in the United States in connection with a defective Takata airbag. It is the 26th fatality worldwide in which an airbag has bene found to be at fault. The victim was driving a 2002 Honda Civic that was involved in an accident on August 20 in Mesa, Arizona.
The Japanese automaker came to its conclusion after a joint investigation of the accident details with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. equivalent of Transport Canada.
The flaw with the airbags is that they can explode without warning. When this happens, metal fragments can fly into the faces of the occupants, resulting in injury and, in some cases, death. The Takata cushion problem has caused the largest motor vehicle recall in history and, as mentioned, is linked to 26 deaths worldwide. Nearly 300 people have also been seriously injured.
Honda said the 2002 Civic involved in the fatal incident has been subject to a recall since December 2011 for replacement of the driver's airbag, while the front passenger unit was part of a recall issued in 2014.
Honda sent more than 15 recall notices by mail over an eight-year period to the vehicle’s registered owners prior to the accident and made further attempts to contact them. The driver who died in the accident was not the registered owner of the vehicle, and Honda stated that it doesn’t know if the registered owner was aware of the recalls applicable to their vehicle.
Prior to the accident on August 20, the last confirmed fatal incident in the United States involving a Takata cushion occurred in June 2018, when the driver of another 2002 Honda Civic died in Buckeye, Arizona.
In total, Takata recalls to date have involved approximately 100 million airbags installed in vehicles made by 19 major manufacturers worldwide.
According to NHTSA, airbag explosions are caused by the degradation of propellant after prolonged exposure to wide fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
This past August, Honda agreed to pay $85 million to settle an investigation by the majority of U.S. states into the company’s use of defective Takata cushions.