A collision in Nevada has caused concern about the long-term danger presented by the Takata airbag scandal. While governments are working to remove vehicles with the dangerous bags from the market, there is nothing to stop the faulty air bags from being removed from wrecked cars and put into the second-hand market.
Takata has been at the centre of a scandal after it was found the companies air bags are exploding without warning. The components are in millions of vehicles worldwide and people have been killed from the fault.
In Nevada, Karina Dorado suffered a punctured trachea from shrapnel when her air bag exploded in what was a normal collision. The accident on March 3 resulted in surgery to save her life, and Dorado’s treatment is ongoing.
The 18-year old joins a growing list of 200 people who have been killed or injured by the faulty inflators. However, Dorado’s case highlights a new challenge facing regulators who are trying to get the bags off the market. She was driving a 2002 Honda Accord, so it is clear faulty Takata bags are have been taken out of previously crashed (and unrelated) vehicles and placed in older second hand cars.
Her car had previously been wrecked in Phoenix and classed a total loss by the insurance company in 2015. After being salvaged, the vehicle was repaired and sold in Nevada, unbeknownst to Dorado’s father, who purchased the car.
The original inflator component was taken from a 2001 Accord, a vehicle which should have been recalled but wasn’t. That means the inflator was never replaced for a functional model.
Engineers from Honda inspected Dorado’s car after the crash and traced the serial number from the blown-apart inflator to a 2001 Accord, which had been covered by a recall but never had the inflator replaced.
It is worth noting that nothing illegal has taken place. U.S. law allows for air bag components and other parts to be taken from wrecked vehicles and used in others. This presents a problem for authorities trying to remove all affected Takata bags from the market. There is no government regulatory body that monitors the second-hand parts market, so there is no way of tracking faulty bags that have been removed from vehicles.
“What there should be is a program that prevents old air bags from being recycled,” said Michael Brooks, acting director of the non-profit Center for Auto Safety.