The woman was driving a 2001 Honda Civic on September 30 of this year when the accident occurred. Her vehicle was recalled as far back as 2008 for airbag problems but was never repaired, according to the NHTSA.
“The vehicle is included in a population of Honda and Acura vehicles which has been identified by NHTSA as holding ‘substantially higher risk,'” the agency said. “The air-bag inflators in these particular vehicles contain a manufacturing defect which greatly increases the potential for dangerous rupture when a crash causes the airbag to deploy.”
Researchers have cited several factors that may cause Takata inflators to deploy violently, including the lack of a desiccant drying agent, age of the airbags and the climate in which the vehicles operate.
“Ruptures are far more likely in inflators in vehicles that have spent significant periods of time in areas of high absolute humidity — particularly Florida, Texas, other parts of the Gulf Coast and Southern California,” NHTSA said. “Testing of the inflators from these vehicles show rupture rates as high as 50 percent in a laboratory setting.”
However, Takata has also blamed airbag failures on rust, bad welds and even chewing gum dropped into at least one inflator. A report (PDF) by the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation said that the company manipulated test data and had not done enough to address safety concerns, even after it was fined more than $200 million for the airbag fiasco.
Nine of the 11 Takata-related deaths in the U.S. have occurred in Acura and Honda models. In June, Honda reported that about 300,000 affected vehicles have not been repaired or accounted for. NHTSA is urging owners of recalled vehicles to stop driving them until the airbag problem can be repaired.
Key lesson: Take recall notices seriously.