An Arizona man who died from injuries sustained in a crash three months after purchasing a used Honda Civic has become the 16th fatality in the U.S. linked to defective air bags at the center of one of the biggest automobile recalls in history.
The 2002 Civic had never been repaired even though it was covered by a Honda recall from December 2014 for defective air bags made by the now-defunct Takata Corp. Those air bags can deploy with too much force and spray drivers with shrapnel-like shards in an accident.
Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed the rupture on Friday following a joint inspection.
In a statement, Honda said it had mailed more than 12 recall notices to the vehicle’s previous owners since January 2015, and made more than 20 phone calls.
But no notices made it to the most recent owner, who died in a hospital on June 11 after being injured by the ruptured air bag in a crash three days prior, according to Honda.
The incident highlights gaps in the U.S. vehicle recall system. Those flaws have been magnified by the Takata air bag recalls, with some 37 million U.S. vehicles affected.
While federal law prohibits the sale of new cars with open recalls, dealers and individuals are free to sell used vehicles without getting safety recalls performed. There’s also no requirement to notify automakers when a vehicle changes hands, making it difficult for carmakers to keep up with who owns their vehicles as they age.
In this case, Honda had no records showing the 2002 Civic had been purchased by the now-deceased owner, and was thus unable to notify the driver of the recall prior to the collision, the company said.
Drivers can search for recalls on their vehicle at www.nhtsa.gov/recalls, or on automaker websites. Honda has the most vehicles affected by the Takata recalls continues to urge drivers to get affected vehicles repaired at dealerships as soon as possible. Original air bags in Honda and Acura vehicles from model years 2001 through 2003 have a heightened risk of exploding in crash, according to the company.
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