Tens of millions of vehicles in the United States with Japanese-made, Takata-branded airbags are currently under recall, the biggest auto recall in history, which spans over five years now. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that as of now, roughly 37 million vehicles equipped with 50 million defective Takata airbags are under recall because the airbags can explode when deployed, causing serious injury or even death to drivers and passengers.
While the federal agency is tackling the massive issue, one Virginia lawmaker is working to levy bigger penalties on those who install defective airbags.
H.B. 2143, introduced by Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle), would provide for a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person who “knowingly” installs or reinstalls any airbag or other component of a motor vehicle’s supplemental restraint system that is “counterfeit, nonfunctional, or not in accordance with federal safety regulations.”
Virginia Code § 18.2-11 levies confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both, for Class 1 misdemeanors.
Delegate Bell’s legislation dictates that one could be brought up on charges if one “sells, installs, reinstalls, or replaces” any device that causes a motor vehicle’s diagnostic system to fail to warn the operator when a counterfeit supplemental restraint system component is installed, or inaccurately indicates that the motor vehicle is equipped with a properly functioning airbag.
The bill passed a vote in the House of Delegates last week 97-0.
The NHTSA has a tool on their website where drivers can enter their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see if their vehicle’s airbag, or any other component, is under recall. Currently, the Takata airbag recall affects those with certain models of Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks North America, Daimler Vans USA LLC, Dodge, Ram Trucks, Ferrari, Fisker, Ford, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Scion, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, and Volkswagen, NHTSA shows.
By December 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency states that the Takata airbag recall will involve nearly three dozen vehicle manufacturers and approximately 65 to 70 million airbags.
As of August 2018, 15 people in the United States died from injuries inflicted by defective Takata airbag inflators, with hundreds more seriously injured.