Federal safety officials are urging owners of certain automobile makes and models with defective airbags made by Japanese parts maker Takata Corp. to “take immediate action” by taking their vehicles to a car dealership for evaluation.

Takata Air Bag Recall

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) consumer advisory, nearly 8 million BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota vehicles made between 2000 and 2011 are affected by the Takata Air Bag Recall related to defective Takata air bags.

The devices can spray passengers with metal fragments when they inflate. At least four deaths and 139 injuries are linked to the air bags.

“Responding to these recalls, whether old or new, is essential to personal safety and it will help aid our ongoing investigation into Takata airbags and what appears to be a problem related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity and temperatures. However, we’re leaving no stone unturned in our aggressive pursuit to track down the full geographic scope of this issue,” said David Friedman, NHTSA Deputy Administrator.

Danger Not Limited to Humid Areas?

NHTSA’s warning is particularly urgent for vehicle owners in the hot, humid areas of Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Hawaii. It is believed that humidity damages the propellant in air bags, possibly causing them to explode and send shrapnel into the cabin.

Members of Congress, however, have criticized the recalls’ focus on high-humidity areas, the New York Times reports. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markeywrote, “NHTSA should immediately issue a nationwide safety recall on all the affected cars, regardless of where the car is registered. All states experience seasons of heat and humidity.”

While drivers with recalled vehicles should be able to get their air bags fixed for free, a shortage of replacement parts means that some owners could wait months or longer for a permanent fix. Toyota, in the meantime, has advised drivers to seat passengers in the back, and Honda is considering doing the same, Automotive News reports.

NHTSA recommends that drivers who are unsure whether their vehicle has been recalled should visit the manufacturer’s website and search for an announcement by the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Takata Faces Lawsuits from U.S. Drivers

In related news, class-action lawsuits filed recently in two states against Takata and automakers allege that the parts maker and automakers knew about the air bag defects for more than a decade, but failed to take action that would have prevented motorist harm, according to Bloomberg.

“Takata and Honda repeatedly failed to fully investigate the problem and issue proper recalls, allowing the problem to proliferate and cause numerous injuries and at least four deaths over the last 13 years,” a complaint filed in the Central District of California states.

Anyone who has suffered an airbag shrapnel injury in a recalled vehicle should discuss their situation with a qualified automotive defect lawyer.

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