Yesterday, Toyota released a statement saying that it was redoubling its efforts to identify and re-notify owners of about 218,000 vehicles that were previously recalled for problems with airbags manufactured and distributed by Takata. In addition to those vehicles, the company has added 28,515 vehicles that are located in areas with high humidity to the recall.
Toyota’s concern stems from the fact that many of the vehicles previously recalled have not been repaired, even though the airbags still pose a danger in case of an accident. The airbags were installed in 2001 through 2004 Corolla, Sequoia, Tundra and Matrix models, as well as Lexus SC models, and they can malfunction in a crash and shoot shrapnel into the chests and faces of passengers sitting in the front seat.
In a separate statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said they are continuing their investigation, but that the issue appears related to long-term exposure to consistently high levels of humidity.
In addition to an added impetus to find and repair all of the vehicles involved in the recall, Toyota is also warning all owners of these vehicles to not allow anyone to sit in the front passenger seat until the airbags have been repaired. The company considers these airbags so dangerous that they have instructed their dealers to shut off the passenger airbags if an owner comes in for a recall repair, but the parts aren’t yet available. The dealers have also been instructed to attach a warning label on the glove box instructing drivers and passengers of the problem. In their statement, company officials note that seatbelts will continue to work even if the airbag is shut off.
Not all of the above vehicles are subject to recall, however many in Texas will be recalled, specifically those that have been registered or sold in areas along the Texas Gulf Coast.
This move by Toyota is part of a wide-ranging group of recalls by a number of automakers, including Honda, Mazda, Nissan, General Motors, BMW and Toyota. In all, 16 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide due to Takata-supplied air bags since 2008, with 4.74 million vehicles being recalled in the US alone.
Although Toyota claims there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities in any of their recalled vehicles, according to reports, there have been at least three known deaths and 139 known injuries tied to these airbags among all carmakers. At least 37 people have described the airbag as having exploded, and in one instance, the victim was described by first responders is looking as if she had been stabbed, when she was hit in the chest with shrapnel from the airbag.
If you have one of these vehicles, and you live along the Gulf Coast or any other climate where there is high humidity, be sure to heed the warnings by Toyota and other carmakers, and take your car in for repair as soon as possible. Not doing so could be deadly for you or members of your family in case of an accident. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or even killed in a vehicle accident, and you have reason to believe that the injuries or the death may have been at least partially caused by the failure of a defective safety device, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable Texas Vehicle Defect Attorneys at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, to protect your rights under the law.