LAKE MARY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - The largest automobile safety recall in history keeps on growing. Toyota is now recalling almost 1.6 million additional vehicles for Takata airbag inflators that could blow up, bringing the total number of vehicle affected to about 70 million.
Despite all the attention to the problem, FOX 35 has uncovered that you could be driving a car with a dangerous airbag, and there’s no way to find out.
According to the federal government, some of Takata’s airbags contain parts that could explode in a collision, firing shrapnel and drivers and passengers. “Rupture of Takata inflators have been responsible for 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries in the U.S.,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters during a May 4 news conference.
During that same news conference, the NHTSA announced they will eventually double the number of vehicles recalled. “The science now clearly shows these inflators can become unsafe over time, faster when exposed to high humidity and variations in temperature."
That means Florida drivers are at a higher risk.
Consumer justice attorney Rich Newsome of Orlando told FOX 35 NHTSA and Takata left something out when they made their announcement. "We don't know who has a good airbag and who doesn't," Newsome said.
Typically, when NHTSA announces a recall consumers can visit the agency’s website, safercar.gov, plug in their vehicle identification number, and find out of their car is on the recall list. By late May, the website still didn’t have the VIN numbers for approximately 40 million of the recalled vehicles loaded.
Drivers may not be able to use the website to find out of their car is recalled until December 2019. "I want to know. I mean, I want to be able to have the option to sell my car if it has a bad airbag and I don't want to have to wait six years to know if I get a recall notice,” Newsome said.
According to NHTSA, scientists believe the airbags are safe for about 6 years, so their plan is to send out recall letters in phases over the next two and a half years. VIN numbers for recalled vehicles typically cannot be found on safercar.gov until recall notices are mailed to drivers.
We took the issue to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee. We asked him why the public isn’t finding out sooner which cars have bad airbags. “This is where I’ve been all over NHTSA about getting out the recall and making the company send out the letters,” said Nelson.
Nelson says his office is working to get all the VIN numbers published on safercar.gov. That way even if drivers don’t get a letter, at least people can find out if their car is under the recall.
Corey Burdick of Lake County lost his eye in a fender bender after an airbag sent metal flying at his face. He settled a lawsuit against Honda and Takata. In Burdick’s settlement, neither Takata nor Honda admitted any wrongdoing. “You’ve got teenagers driving around just starting their lives. You’ve got people like me that were just starting their lives,” Burdick said.
FOX 35 contacted Takata about the recall and Burdick’s settlement. A company spokesman said “no comment.”
To read the full press release on the expanded recall rollout click here.