NHTSA: Stop driving these Hondas right now!

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(CNNMoney/KHON2) — Federal safety regulators warned owners of more than 300,000 Hondas and Acuras that they should not drive their cars until their Takata airbags are replaced.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said new tests show these airbags have a much higher risk of exploding and killing a driver or passenger. These airbags have a 50% chance of exploding when they are deployed in an accident, according to the agency. Other Takata airbags have less than a 1% chance of exploding.

“The risk posed by the airbag inflators in these vehicles is grave, and it is critical they be repaired now to avoid more deaths and serious injuries,” said the agency’s statement.

Cars located in humid regions of the country such as Texas, Florida and the Gulf Coast are at particular risk.

The warning came a little too late for Sheri Napeahi, who says she was driving her 2003 Acura when both driver and passenger airbags ruptured without her car hitting anything.

“I was in shock. I didn’t exactly know what happened. It was like a firework blew up in my car,” she said.

Napeahi had burns and cuts on her neck, and sprained her elbow and wrist, but she realized it could have been much worse.

“It was pretty traumatic for me. I just had anxiety and shaking, just sitting in the driver seat,” Napeahi said.

There have been 10 U.S. deaths tied to exploding Takata airbags. Eight of them were in cars that had this specific airbag.

This group of cars is a small subset of cars with Takata airbags that have been already recalled. Nearly 70 million airbags in U.S. cars alone have been or will be recalled, according to the agency. It will take until 2019 to replace these airbags because not all of the replacement parts are immediately available.

But NHTSA said Honda has the replacement parts to fix all of the 300,000 high-risk cars covered by this alert.The models identified by NHTSA include:

  • 2001-2002 Honda Civic
  • 2001-2002 Honda Accord
  • 2002-2003 Acura TL
  • 2002 Honda CR-V
  • 2002 Honda Odyssey
  • 2003 Acura CL
  • 2003 Honda Pilot

KHON2 reached out to the Honda and Acura dealerships to find out if the affected vehicles can be fixed right away and what owners should know.

A spokeswoman for Honda says while it’s not clear exactly how many drivers are affected in Hawaii, dealerships here have the parts to replace the recalled airbags and, if they can’t do it right away, they will provide loaners. (You can view a full statement from Honda at the bottom of this post.)

About 700,000 cars with the high risk airbags have already been fixed. The recalls for these models took place between 2008 and 2011.

But it often takes years for recalled cars to be fixed. On average about a third of recalled vehicles are never repaired, according to industry estimates. That’s true even in the case of high profile recalls in which there are multiple deaths reported, as in this case.

Personal injury attorney Richard Turbin says it’s likely some car owners have not taken their cars for repairs because they’re not getting the right message from the car companies.

“They have to know that this is a highly dangerous situation and they, or the driver or passenger, can die from this,” he said.

According to NHTSA, 8.9 million Takata airbags were replaced in the last year. But that only represents about a third of the cars in which owners have been notified that a replacement part is available.

The NHSTA says that drivers of the vehicles above should immediately visit SaferCar.gov to check whether their vehicle has any outstanding safety recalls. If you do find your vehicle on the list, you should contact your nearest dealer to schedule a no-cost immediate repair. Replacement parts for these vehicles are available immediately.

Statement by American Honda Regarding PSDI Inflators in 2001-2003 Vehicles

June 30, 2016

Honda was recently informed by the NHTSA that analysis by Takata of PSDI front driver airbag inflators – so-called “Alpha” inflators – removed from recalled 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles in the state of Florida in the last few months and returned to Takata has revealed a very high rupture rate in laboratory testing.

Based on this analysis, Honda concurs with the Secretary of Transportation’s recommendation that this particular sub-group of 313,000 “Alpha” vehicles should only be driven to a dealer in order to have their Takata airbag inflators replaced as rapidly as possible. There is an abundant supply of replacement inflators and the repair is free of charge and can be completed quickly.

The inflators involved in this laboratory testing had been subject to recall by Honda since between 2008 and 2011, but had never been replaced by the vehicle owner under those actions (Original NHTSA recalls 08V-593, 09V-259, 10V-041 and 11V-260).

With between 14 to 16 years of operation in vehicles, these recalled inflators have also been subject to potential degradation of the ammonium nitrate inflator propellant caused by the factors of age, high temperature and high humidity.  Recently, NHTSA identified through independent testing that these factors can lead to over-pressurization of the inflator if it deploys during a crash.

In the effort to reach owners of vehicles affected by these recalls, Honda has already utilized 17 of the 19 measures suggested for all automakers by the NHTSA-appointed Takata Independent Monitor to improve Takata airbag inflator recall completion.

Honda’s efforts to reach these owners of vehicles affected by these recalls include:

  • 17.6 million mailed first class notifications to registered owners of affected vehicles (in both English and Spanish)
  • 16.6  million post cards
  • 17.7 million live and automated phone calls
  • 5.8 million E-mails
  • 311,000 text messages
  • Newspaper and radio ads in English and Spanish
  • Targeted social media advertising
  • Private investigators seeking to locate individual, hard-to-reach owners

These efforts, and others, have yielded a 70 percent recall completion rate among this recalled population, but, up to 313,000 recalled vehicles remain unrepaired, many of them in the areas of High Absolute Humidity (HAH) designated by NHTSA, including Florida. Based on the recent Takata test results, in Florida or similar HAH areas, there is a significant risk of airbag inflator rupture if one of these vehicles is involved in a crash that deploys the driver front airbag.

In addition, Honda is pursuing additional actions targeting the “Alpha” population including the following:

  • More than doubling the size of the customer service staff to enable more inbound and outbound calls with customers
  • Exploring a targeted Social Media advertising campaign designed to identify and communicate with vehicle owners at sites that they often visit

Honda will continue to aggressively explore and implement new methods to reach owners of these vehicles, and has ample replacement parts inventory from alternative suppliers to immediately repair all of the recalled vehicles from the 2001-2003 model years.  For replacement of the “alpha” inflators in affected vehicles Honda is not using any replacement inflators from Takata.

Ultimately, it is up to each vehicle owner to take action to complete the vehicle repair and Honda urges every owner of a 2001-2003 vehicle affected by the Takata inflator recall to contact a dealer immediately to complete the repair.

Honda believes that the most effective solution to ensure repair of vehicles affected by any and all recalls is to tie state vehicle registration to recall completion similar to existing emissions requirements.

In the interim, Honda encourages all Honda and Acura vehicle owners to immediately check for open recalls at www.recalls.honda.com and www.recalls.acura.com and contact an authorized dealer as soon as possible to schedule the free repair. Any concerned customer can also contact Automobile Customer Service at 888-234-2138.

Summary of 2001-2003 vehicles that may be equipped with recalled Takata PSDI driver airbag inflators (Vehicle owners should check by VIN):

  • 2001-2002 Honda Accord
  • 2001-2002 Honda Civic
  • 2002 Honda CR-V
  • 2002 Honda Odyssey
  • 2003 Honda Pilot
  • 2002-2003 Acura 3.2 TL
  • 2003 Acura 3.2CL

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