Largest auto safety recall in history takes fatal toll on Southern California

More than 200,000 defective airbag inflators remain unrepaired

■ Chronicle / News Service

Certain Hondas and Acuras pose up to a 50 percent chance of producing a deadly explosion, prompting community leaders to call for action and commit to increasing awareness of dangerous recall.
Hundreds of thousands of Riverside County residents are driving recalled vehicles with dangerously defective airbag inflators that could blast shrapnel into the passenger compartment upon deployment. In response, family and friends of local victims, along with dozens of civic and community leaders, have joined together to urge people to check whether their vehicle is affected, and to get a free, life-saving repair.
The new effort is an extension of Airbag Recall: Southern California, a coalition launched this past March in Los Angeles. The aim is to educate communities across Southern California about the life-threatening danger posed by unrepaired, recalled airbags.
At least 11 Americans – including three Californians – have been killed by defective airbag inflators. Approximately 180 Americans have suffered serious injuries, including cuts or lacerations to the face or neck, broken or fractured facial bones, loss of eyesight and broken teeth.
Former Corona resident Delia Robles was killed on Sept. 30, 2016, when the defective airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic exploded, spraying her with shrapnel. She was driving 25 miles-per-hour, on her way to get a flu shot. In this and nearly all other cases in the United States, the fatal airbag explosion was triggered by a minor collision that the driver should have been able to walk away from. Thousands of these higher-risk vehicles are still on the road across Southern California, but have yet to be repaired.
While the recall affects vehicles manufactured by 19 different automakers, drivers of some older vehicles face an even greater risk. These models include 2001 and 2002 Honda Civics and Accords, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey and CR-V, the 2003 Acura CL and the 2003 Honda Pilot.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “with as high as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous air bag inflator rupture in a crash, these vehicles are unsafe and need to be repaired immediately.”
The risk for serious injury or death is particularly acute in Riverside County due to high temperatures and humidity that exacerbate the defect in the airbag inflator.
The replacement airbag is absolutely free. Parts for higher-risk vehicles are in good supply at area dealerships, and free towing is available.
In addition, as part of ongoing efforts to address this recall, on Dec. 9, 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a new repair prioritization plan designed to accelerate the availability of replacement parts for vehicles impacted by the recall.
Local residents can find out if their vehicle has a defective airbag inflator by visiting AirbagRecall.com. If their vehicle is affected, they can use the website to locate a local dealership and schedule a free repair. They can also check their vehicle by using the free Airbag Recall app, now available on Google Play or iTunes. The easy-to-use app provides all the same information as the website, plus it allows users to scan license plates directly from their device.
Riverside County residents who may be waiting for replacement parts for their vehicle, or who are not affected by the current recall, are also encouraged to call their local dealer and confirm their contact information is up-to-date so they can receive recall-related updates going forward.

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