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Landmines on American Highways: Millions of Cars Recalled


Not only do you need personal protective equipment to keep from catching ebola, you need it if you drive any of  8,000,000 cars on American roads. But instead of surgical masks, gowns and gloves, you’d better put on a helmet and bulletproof vest because these cars are carrying airbags that burst upon impact, sending scraps of debris so forcefully it’s deadly.


Wired carried this article

What You Need to Know About the Terrifying Takata Airbag Recall

So what’s going on?

7.8 million cars in the US are being recalled because they’re equipped with airbags that could explode with too much force when they inflate. That extra force can be enough to rupture the airbag’s container, sending plastic and metal fragments into passengers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s list of affected vehicles includes more than 50 models from Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, made between 2000 and 2011.

Unlike the GM recall of cars with defective ignition switches that could turn off the engine and deactivate the airbags, this problem turns a life-saving tool into one that fires shrapnel. The problem has been linked to at least four deaths, according to Bloomberg, and seems to be more common in hot, humid regions.

What’s happening now?

NHTSA is telling drivers of affected vehicles to “take immediate action,” meaning get themselves to a car dealership and get their airbags checked out. It’s especially concerned about drivers in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii (all hot, humid spots).

It’s not an easy problem to fix on a massive scale—there aren’t 7.8 million airbags lying around to replace the potentially dangerous ones. Some consumers may have to wait months to get replacements, and Toyota has suggested disabling the passenger side airbag and keeping that seat empty as a temporary solution, The New York Times reports.

If your car is on the recall list, or it’s not and you’re freaked out anyway (understandable, airbags are acting like shotguns), you can call NHTSA’s safety hotline (1-888-327-4236) or use your car’s VIN to see if you’re affected by this or any other reported problem.

Takata, meanwhile, “deeply regret[s]that the recent recalls of vehicles equipped with our airbags have likely raised significant concerns and troubles to our product users, our customers and other stakeholders,” it said in a statement on Monday. “We sincerely apologize for causing any such concerns and troubles.”

And what next?

A couple of things. One, we try to figure out what went so crazily wrong. Takata says it’s working with automakers to find the underlying issue. It looks like the problem with humidity may come from its use of ammonium nitrate as the chemical that ignites in the event of a crash, instantly inflating the airbag.

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