JUST IN: Florida drivers face nation’s top risk with unfixed airbags

Florida drivers who own 1.3 million vehicles with a recalled Takata airbag that was never fixed are taking the biggest risks in the nation, new statistics suggest.

Florida leads all U.S. states and territories with three deaths and 83 injuries related to the airbags, and injuries in the state have jumped almost 400 percent since the end of 2014.

Yet only 45 percent of recalled airbags in Florida have been replaced, according to information provided Friday by the state’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. He is the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate commerce committee, which oversees automakers.

On Wednesday, the Senate commerce committee is scheduled to examine the nomination of Heidi R. King to be administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees recalls among other duties.

As a deputy administrator with the agency, King warned earlier this month of low compliance rates with a “do not drive” warning affecting 2006 Ford Rangers and Mazda B-Series trucks.

“I cannot stress strongly enough the urgency of this recall – these airbags are dangerous,” King said. “Every vehicle must be accounted for now.”

Limited supplies of replacement parts have delayed some fixes, while in other cases drivers who bought used cars, for example, might never have been notified. In many instances, a letter or postcard can easily get lost in a pile of junk mail.

“These numbers show that we still have a huge problem with getting these dangerous airbags replaced and off our highways,” Nelson said. “Consumers should heed the recall warnings and get their vehicle repaired as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in death or life altering injuries.”

Florida’s high humidity seems to create conditions that make the airbags more likely to malfunction over time and spew dangerous metal fragments when deployed, researchers say. Drivers of seven Honda and Acura models made between 2001 and 2003 face a particularly high risk.

Unsure if your car is affected? Call your manufacturer or dealer or check here:

http://www.safercar.gov/rs/takata/takatalist.html

Or enter a car’s vehicle identification number in this look-up tool:

https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/

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