The number of injuries and deaths associated with Takata-produced airbags that have been found to spew pieces of shrapnel at passengers and drivers upon deployment increased once again, now totaling 105 injuries and six deaths, according to data received from the parts manufacturer.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson revealed the higher numbers during a statement on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.
“These are the airbags that when they explode in order to save life, is either maiming life or ending life,” he said. “The number of vehicles recalled is going to be in the record books as one of the largest in American history.”
Nelson said during his statement that the new injury and death figures, which were provided by Takata, are accurate as of the end of January. Previously, Takata provided Nelson and the Senate Commerce Committee with data that included 64 injuries and 5 deaths related to the defect.
Seventeen of the new injuries were reported in Florida – which Nelson calls the “epicenter” of the issue – bringing the state’s total to 35 injuries and one death.
“Now these injuries have been very, very serious,” Nelson said. “This is not a minor little nick. This includes incidents of facial fractures, blindness, and even quadriplegia.”
Nelson warned members of the Senate that the number of injuries and deaths associated with the Takata airbag defect will likely continue to grow, citing a report from Reuters earlier this month that linked another rupture occurred last month.
“We need to get to the root cause of the problem and we need to make sure we know why these defective airbag inflators are failing,” he said.
While Takata has said that it would double its production of replacement airbags over the next six months after being criticized its slow output, Nelson said that it is more important regulators and the company ensure that the products are “actually safe instead of just producing more of the same, potentially defective inflators.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the issue in June 2014 after five automakers – Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and Chrysler – began recalling millions of vehicles.
In all, the defective Takata airbags have resulted in automakers recalling nearly 25 million vehicles.
In February, the agency began fining the company $14,000 per day for failing to turn over documents and answer questions. Investigators said the fine was a result Takata’s slow pace in working with the agency.
“We have concluded that Takata is neither being forthcoming with the information that is it legally obligated to supply, nor is it being cooperative in aiding NHTSA’s ongoing investigation of a potentially serious safety defect,” the agency said at the time.
Just a week later, NHTSA upgraded its probe to an engineering analysis. The regulators said the formal step intensifies the investigation and could help determine whether the company’s failure to quickly notify the agency of possible defects violated federal law or regulations.
Additionally, the company was issued an order requiring it to preserve airbag inflators for use as evidence in the agency’s probe and any subsequent lawsuits.
In March, Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told a panel at the Consumer Federation of America Assembly in D.C. that Takata was being more forthcoming with information related to the agency’s investigation.