There are still about 20,000 dangerous Takata airbags in Australian cars. Picture: Getty Images
There are still about 20,000 dangerous Takata airbags in Australian cars. Picture: Getty Images

The states which won’t tackle deadly airbag problem

AUSTRALIA'S two largest road safety organisations are baulking at adopting a simple idea to fix the potentially deadly Takata airbag problem that's already claimed more than 20 lives globally.

VicRoads and NSW's Road and Maritime Services are resisting calls to take cars off the road if their owners continue to ignore recall notices over the Takata airbag issue.

There are still an estimated 20,000 so-called "Alpha" airbags in Australian registered cars that have a one-in-two chance of spraying deadly shrapnel in the case of even a minor, low speed accident. About 1.4 million local cars also have Takata airbags that carry a lower risk of deploying dangerously.

More than a million local cars are affected by the Takata recall. Picture: Getty Images
More than a million local cars are affected by the Takata recall. Picture: Getty Images

The inaction of authorities in NSW and Victoria is leaving car companies the unenviable task of finding a needle in a haystack, trying to track down affected cars that may have changed hands several times.

The industry has gone as far as to hire private detectives to track down owners only to find them unwilling to have the vital recall done.

The fix is a simple one. Road safety authorities can track down cars by their registration numbers, contact the owners and advise them to get the work done.

Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory have all come to the party, issuing notices to drivers warning them that if they don't get their airbag fixed, their car could be taken off the road.

US Democrat senator Bill Nelson points to the injury on a victim who was hit by shrapnel when a car's Takata air bag inflated. Picture: AP.
US Democrat senator Bill Nelson points to the injury on a victim who was hit by shrapnel when a car's Takata air bag inflated. Picture: AP.

But New South Wales and Victoria were this week still resisting calls to follow suit.

Roger Chao, VicRoads director road user and vehicle access, said the organisation was considering its options.

"Driver safety is paramount, and we take issues of vehicle safety very seriously.

"We are continuing to work closely with the ACCC and other States and Territories to assist manufacturers in contacting owners of affected vehicles, and are considering all options to ensure vehicles are safe on our roads," he said.

It is believed the ACCC is waiting for car companies to exhaust all avenues of inquiry regarding the faulty airbags before asking the states and territories for more concrete assistance.

The airbag ignition mechanism that has been found to be defective. Photo: AP.
The airbag ignition mechanism that has been found to be defective. Photo: AP.

In NSW, Roads and Maritime Services said airbags did not come under its road worthiness rules.

"Roads and Maritime Services is responsible for ensuring vehicles comply with relevant safety standards and are roadworthy for use on NSW roads. Components such as airbags, which cannot be tested, are currently not part of roadworthy checks," the RMS said in a statement.

"Roads and Maritime is assisting vehicle manufacturers by providing up to date details of affected vehicle owners and will continue to work with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission in the recall process," the statement said.

The RMS said it was "considering options to ensure owners of vehicles with the highest risk alpha airbags comply with the recall".

The Takata airbag issue has affected millions of vehicles worldwide. Picture: Supplied.
The Takata airbag issue has affected millions of vehicles worldwide. Picture: Supplied.

The chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said state co-operation was vital to a timely recall of the most deadly Takata airbags.

"The Takata airbag recall is a global consumer safety issue and the industry has been doing its absolute utmost to raise awareness across Australia, urging people to take action and check whether their vehicles' airbags are affected.

"But we can only do so much, and state and territory governments have a significant role to play. We know that elsewhere, such as in Japan, there has been a similar tough response to South Australia through refusing vehicle registration to affected vehicles.

He called on NSW and Victoria to follow the lead of the other states.

"These 'alpha' type Takata airbags are the most dangerous of the affected airbags, and preventing people from simply re-registering these vehicles reduces the risk enormously."


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