LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Consumers activists Monday made an urgent plea with Southern California drivers of older Honda and Acura models to replace their air bags for free immediately.

They said hundreds of thousands of Southern Californians are still driving around with possibly defective Takata airbag inflators that could explode during a crash, even a fender-bender, and cause fatal injuries.

The nationwide recall affects as many as 42 million vehicles and 19 different automakers.

But the defective airbag inflators in some Hondas and Acuras pose the most urgent threat, with up to a 50 percent chance of exploding when deployed, according to Airbag Recall: Southern California.

“It’s death or check, very simple,” Gil Dyer of the Latin Business Association warned.

“California leads the nation in fatalities caused by defective airbags,” Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price said. “That’s why compliance with this recall is critical. We need to insure 100 percent of defective airbag inflators are repaired.”

“Parents have died. Grandmothers have died. All-American gymnasts have died. All walks of life are affected by this recall,” said John Buretta of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Independent Monitor of Takata and Coordinated Remedy Program.

The vehicle models at issue include the 2001 and 2002 Honda Civic, the 2001 and 2002 Honda Accord, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey, the 2002 Honda CR-V, the 2003 Acura CL and the 2003 Honda Pilot.

Owners of affected vehicles should schedule their free repair immediately by calling Honda at (888) 234-2138.

Any Honda or Acura dealership will replace the defective airbags for free, provide a free loaner or rental car and even offer free towing service to the dealership of your choice if you prefer not to drive your car until the airbag is replaced.

Drivers can find out whether their vehicle is on the recall list by going to AirBagRecall.com.

Southern California leads the nation in fatalities caused by defective airbags. The risk for serious injury or death is particularly acute in Southern California due to high temperatures that exacerbate the defect in the airbag inflator, according to Airbag Recall, which held a news conference at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

At least 11 people, including three in California, have been killed by defective airbag inflators, and about 180 others have suffered serious injuries. They include cuts or lacerations to the face or neck, broken or fractured facial bones, loss of eyesight and broken teeth.

“If your vehicle contains a defective airbag, this part of your daily life could threaten your life,” said Kenn Phillips, president and chief economic officer of the Valley Economic Alliance. “To confront this issue head-on, the Valley Economic Alliance has partnered with auto-body shops throughout the area to check drivers’ vehicles for outstanding recalls and to educate them on how to get their airbags replaced free of charge at a local dealership.”

“Tragically, Honda has confirmed 10 deaths in its vehicles due to ruptures of Takata airbag inflators in the United States, and all but two of these involved `Alpha’ inflators,” the company said in a statement. “Honda continues to recommend that unrepaired ‘Alpha’ vehicles not be driven except to an authorized dealer for repair. Please don’t delay. This repair could save your life!”

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

  1. Interesting Things says:

    It is simply not true that a rental car is provided. And a tow truck? Yes everyone should get it done, of course but don’t say things that are not true. I’m sure some folks have had such service, but it is not an automatic thing by any means.

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