It’s been nearly a decade since widespread recalls of Takata airbags began. Tens of millions of cars have had their defective, potentially deadly inflators replaced, but some are still on the streets, their owners missing years and years’ worth of notices. On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed authorities’ suspicions that a death that occurred in June involving a 2006 Ford Ranger was, in fact, caused by a bad Takata airbag.
Ford claims it sent the owner more than 100 alerts through the mail, as well as text messages, and even had a representative go to their home to set up an appointment in person, per Reuters. The company also says it warned owners of all affected Rangers not to drive their trucks.
To date, at least 23 people have been killed and 400 injured in the U.S. by defective Takata inflators, which employed an unstable chemical that could create violent explosions in the event of an accident, sending shrapnel into the cabin.
Regrettably, stories like this one out of Florida of drivers either unaware or knowingly flouting repeated communications about Takata recalls haven’t been uncommon. One such driver of a 2002 Honda Accord was killed in a collision in South Carolina in January 2021; Honda said it sent out more than 100 notices. Those may have very well been missed by the person driving the Accord at the time of the crash, as they weren’t even the registered owner of the sedan.
Around the time of that South Carolina incident, Ford was forced to recall another 3 million cars that had theoretically safer Takata airbags. The inflators in these cars employed the same dangerous chemical but added a desiccant, to absorb moisture and stop degradation, supposedly ensuring they’d work as designed. Ultimately the NHTSA determined these Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Mazda models were still at risk just like the rest, and added them to the more than 100 million cars globally affected by the recall.
Now’s a good time to reiterate that the NHTSA has a handy lookup site, where you can input your car’s VIN to see if it has any outstanding, unrepaired recalls. Always be sure to use it when you’re used car shopping, particularly for anything built in the aughts when these lethal airbags found their way into just about everything.