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Takata airbag recalls impacts drivers in Tri-Cities region

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says an estimated 37 million vehicles are currently under recall for approximately 50 million defective Takata airbags. Nineteen manufacturers have been impacted.

A safety device in cars that's meant to save lives is putting many at risk. Defective airbags made by Japan's Takata corporation have caused millions of vehicles to be recalled, including in the Tri-Cities region.

One of them is Kennewick resident Mary Lou Anderson, who has had her 2008 Ford Fusion for about a decade and says she plans to use the car the rest of her life.

"I like the car. I enjoy it very much, but I'm starting to get very scared about the airbags."

Anderson received a letter from vehicle manufacturer Ford back in March, which said her car's Takata airbags were defective.

It’s just one of the millions of cars involved in what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is calling one of the largest and most complex vehicles recalls in U.S. history.

The NHTSA says an estimated 37 million vehicles are currently under recall for approximately 50 million defective Takata airbags. Nineteen manufacturers have been impacted.

Anderson is also not the only car owner in the area with a defective airbag. Robert McLaughlin of Prosser says he's been receiving letters since 2009 about a possible problem with the Takata airbags in his 2007 Ford Edge.

But one of his most recent ones from Ford, received in December, was different: “They sent us this letter which states that this vehicle airbag inflator may rupture in the event of a crash. Not to have anybody ride in the front passenger seat or they could be killed."

Both of McLaughlin and Anderson's letters told them to get a hold of their local dealership to schedule a free repair.

But when they tried to do so on different occasions, the car owners were reportedly told that they're unable to get their cars repaired because there are no parts available.

On Ford's website, the company says they do have parts available for some vehicles, but for others, limited replacement inflators are being used in the interim for some vehicles in high risk areas, while for other recalls, the development for permanent repairs is in the process.

In their FAQ section about the Takata recalls, the company says, “At NHTSA's request, Ford issued safety recalls for vehicles with certain Takata inflators even though replacement inflators with a different propellant would not be available for months or even years while new inflators are being redesigned and manufactured.”

But the wait for permanent repairs and parts has impacted both McLaughlin and Anderson's driving habits.

"In fact, I haven't been driving because of that letter very much and then my significant other, she just sits in the back seat and she says she's Miss Daisy now since I'm the chauffeur,” says McLaughlin.

Anderson says because of her height of 5 feet 1 ½ inch, she used to sit closer to the steering wheel. She admits that’s changed since her letter.

“I'm pushing myself back so I'm not as close to an airbag just in case if it's on my side, too. And so it's a little bit harder for me to drive because of pushing myself back."

For more information from the NHTSA about the Takata airbag recalls, click here.

To read Ford’s FAQ about the recall, click here.

To find if your vehicle has a recall, check out the NHTSA’s Recall Lookup Tool. You can check it out here.

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