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Airbags Or Car Bombs?

Indications are that lives of some hundreds of motorists in Nigeria and other African nations are being exposed to daily possibility of fatal accidents resulting from airbag bomb explosion. But how does a device meant to protect lives become an explosive capable of killing vehicle occupants? FRANK BOYEDE finds out.

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or some years, it has come to light that airbag, one of the devices installed in modern cars to protect occupants in case of accidents, has become a source of danger. They are found to have potential of exploding, even when there is no car crash, and causing loss of control, which leads to accidents and serious injuries or even deaths. 

Picture2As a result, makers of affected automobiles have announced recall of almost 50 million cars already sold to motorists around the world, including Nigeria.

After five deaths had been reported in the US, Barrack Obama’s regime realized that the problem was not to be treated with kid’s glove. Parliamentary committee was set up. Investigations were carried out. It became clear that a particular Japanese Airbag manufacturer known as Takata had been supplying lethal airbags to makers of popular brand of vehicles rolled out for sale all over the world, including the US and Nigeria.

Affected brands include: Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Ford, Fiat, Chrysler, Daimler truck, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru.

Within the last four months, reported death toll in the US alone has risen to seven and serious injuries almost 200. Safety analysts believe that 100s of unreported cases would have occurred around the world, for very few motorists are aware of the problem or even common indicators that airbags may not deploy or deploy too early or too late, during an accident.

Airbomb Explosion: what exploded airbags shrapnel look like
Airbomb Explosion: what exploded airbags shrapnel look like

But major problem motoring world is facing at the moment could be likened to driving a car with a bomb. Whenever an accident occurs, even mere head-on collision, airbag would deploy in form of bomb explosion, firing sharp metal bullets at occupants of the vehicle. That’s the shocking revelation.

The Bomb

The problem with Takata airbags, we gathered, has to do with inflator propellants used, which is a chemical known as Ammonium nitrate. Airbags produced by other rival makers, namely Autoliv, Daicel and TRW, do not have similar problem, because they use different inflator propellants. As Takata discovered, Ammonium nitrate can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal inflator and sending sharp metal objects into the passenger compartment.

Air Force Lt. Stephanie Erdman, whose eye was injured by airbag shrapnel, testifying on Capitol Hill: “My passenger only had mild scrapes and bruises. I should not have been injured in the shocking and terrifying way that I was."
Air Force Lt. Stephanie Erdman, whose eye was injured by airbag shrapnel, testifying on Capitol Hill: “My passenger only had mild scrapes and bruises. I should not have been injured in the shocking and terrifying way that I was.”

Stephanie Erdman:Injured from explosion
Stephanie Erdman:Injured from explosion

That is why whenever an accident occurs, rather than deploying normally, Ammonium Nitrate-filled Takata airbag explodes and send out into passenger compartment, shards of metals, which could hit driver or other occupant of the vehicle on forehead, eyes or neck, causing serious injury, shock and death.

Secondly, even when there is no crash, it was found out that defective Takata airbags are capable of exploding on their own, sending out those bullet-like metals, which could hit the driver on forehead, face or neck. And if that happens, while driving on high speed, driver involved can loose control. Fatal accident may result. In which case, such accidents would have been attributed to either over speeding or other factors, but not airbags, because in a country like Nigeria, relevant government agencies have not yet started looking into auto technology contribution to a road crash.

While Nigerian motoring public might feel unconcerned about the development, as certain dealers spread assumption that vehicles sold to Nigeria market are not affected, recent statement made by Kevin Kennedy, executive vice-president of North America for Takata, says otherwise. According to him, “most failures causing air bag ruptures occurred in parts of the world with high heat and humidity.

Airbag Cartridge: could turn to a bomb if it's Takata-made
Airbag Cartridge: could turn to a bomb if it’s Takata-made

A deathly air bag explosion from a Honda car in Malaysia
A deathly air bag explosion from a Honda car in Malaysia

In a move to ensure safety of its customers, Toyota Nigeria Limited recently announced recalls some of its Toyota models, as a result of the airbag problems.

The major problem has to do with over 200,000 use vehicles annually imported into Nigeria. Motoring world gathered that high numbers of such used vehicles came from the US. And many of them are of the recalled models. A number of motorists spoken to by Motoring World are unaware of the airbags problem. Less than 10 per cent of motorists, who responded to Motoring World, are aware of what Vehicle recall is all about.

Indications, therefore, are that lives of some hundreds of motorists in Nigeria and other African nations might be exposed to daily possibility of fatal and accidents resulting from airbag bomb explosion.

Of course, maker of the killer airbags are assuring motoring world that they have suspended use of the killer chemical for production of airbags, good number of affected vehicles exported to developing nations as second hand may never be returned for amendment until someone or owner get killed.

[box type=”info” align=”alignleft” ]But major problem motoring world is facing at the moment could be likened to driving a car with a bomb. Whenever an accident occurs, even mere head-on collision, airbag would deploy in form of bomb explosion, firing sharp metal bullets at occupants of the vehicle. That’s the shocking revelation.[/box]

What Motorists Should Do

A VIN - Vehicle Identification Number, required to check if your car has been recalled
A VIN – Vehicle Identification Number, required to check if your car has been recalled

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]eanwhile, to find out whether or not a vehicle is on the recalled list, Nigerians who bought their cars from grey market within the last 10 years, especially from US, should

  1. In whichever country you are, contact franchised or accredited dealer for such brand and or
  2. Go online and continuously enquire from relevant website, for instance www.safercar.gov

It is advisable that, in a moment like this, owner of a recalled brand or model should make periodic check for their VIN number, because even some of the vehicles previously fixed – or excluded in the past could be back on the recall list in the future.

  1. Consumers who receive recall notices should call their dealer immediately.
  2. Honda owners can check their recall status at www.recalls.honda.com or call 800-999-1009. Acura owners

    VIN can be located on various places in a car, including the DOOR
    VIN can be located on various places in a car, including the DOOR

    should go to www.recalls.acura.com or call 800-382-2238 and press option 4.

“Folks shouldn’t have to drive around wondering if their airbag is going to explode in their face or if their car is going to be on another recall list,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee and a key figure in a congressional probe into the defective airbags. “We’ve seen the recall list double now to 30 million cars. Let’s hope Takata’s admissions today tells us the whole story.”

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