Faulty airbags that can kill are still in circulation on Australian roads. Picture: Supplied.
Faulty airbags that can kill are still in circulation on Australian roads. Picture: Supplied.

Drivers threatened with defect notices for ignoring recall

STATE transport authorities are about to get tough with people who refuse to have their car's faulty Takata airbag fixed.

Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads has confirmed it will cancel the registration of cars fitted with the most high-risk "alpha" airbags if owners continue to ignore repeated approaches by car companies.

Alpha airbags have a one-in-two chance of spraying deadly shrapnel at the driver or passenger if deployed. More than 20 people have been killed globally by the exploding airbags, while others have suffered horrific, disfiguring injuries.

US Senator Bill Nelson points to the injury on a victim who was hit by shrapnel when a car's Takata airbag inflated. About 12,000 remain in circulation. Picture: AP.
US Senator Bill Nelson points to the injury on a victim who was hit by shrapnel when a car's Takata airbag inflated. About 12,000 remain in circulation. Picture: AP.

About 12,000 of the airbags remain in circulation locally.

The ACCC is preparing a list of registrations to the State governments who - with the notable exception of NSW and Victoria - have agreed to step in to get the deadly airbags off the road.

A spokesperson for Queensland's TMR confirmed action would be taken against owners once manufacturers had fulfilled all their obligations to contact them.

Car makers have gone to extreme lengths to contact owners, in some cases hiring private investigators to track down cars that have changed hands several times, but some owners refuse to get their cars fixed.

The ACCC is expected to provide the first batch of registration numbers in coming weeks and a TMR spokesperson said defect notices would be sent out soon after.

Some owners are ignoring repeated requests to have their airbags fixed. Picture: Getty Images
Some owners are ignoring repeated requests to have their airbags fixed. Picture: Getty Images

"If a member of the community receives a defect notice, we strongly recommended they contact their local dealer/manufacturer immediately to have the vehicle repaired," the spokesperson said.

"Failure to comply with the defect notice may result in cancellation of registration for the vehicle."

Queensland's leading motoring body applauded the tough action.

RACQ head of technical and safety policy Steve Spalding said owners had received plenty of warning about the issue.

"If we can't rely on car owners to protect themselves, then the State needs to step in. It's not just about the car owner's safety, these cars could be used as ride share vehicles or could be resold on to an unsuspecting buyer. There are just too many lives at stake," he said.

South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are also waiting for a list from the ACCC before proceeding with similar programs, but New South Wales and Victoria refuse to take part.

The faulty airbag component is susceptible to rust and can spray shrapnel when deployed. Picture: AP.
The faulty airbag component is susceptible to rust and can spray shrapnel when deployed. Picture: AP.

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.

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

Airbag maker Takata covered up the airbag issue for several years. Picture: Supplied.
Airbag maker Takata covered up the airbag issue for several years. Picture: Supplied.

"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 and Consumer Commission (ACCC) 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".


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