Drivers Worry While Waiting for Recalled Air Bag Replacements

Nearly 70 million cars are now affected by the largest auto safety recall in history due to faulty Takata-made air bags that may take years to replace, leaving SoCal drivers wondering whether it's worth the risk to even use the cars they own or lease.

There is no easy answer, as replacement parts may not be available for some people until 2019.

One grandmother from La Verne said she doesn't know where to turn.

Shuttling her grandkids to activities during the week, Callie Rice says driving a safe car is a must, and one of the reasons she leased a 2014 Volkswagen Passat.

“It's nice and roomy. Very comfortable,” Rice says.

In April she got a recall notice saying she had a defective driver's side air bag, made by Takata, that could rupture causing "serious injury or death."

And Rice says no one can tell her when replacement parts will be available, leaving her with a car she doesn't feel comfortable driving.

“I'm afraid to actually step in the car. I definitely avoid freeways at all cost and I have my young grandchildren with me quite often and my concern extends to them as well or anybody else in my vehicle,” she says.

Takata's recall was expanded this month to almost 70 million cars, or about one out of every five cars. The federal government says it could be 2019 before they'll have enough parts to go around.

But Rice's lease ends next year.

“I just feel trapped,” she says.

David Solis of Santa Paula says he's been waiting eight months to get the airbag in his Ford Mustang repaired, and doesn't know when it will be safe to drive his dream car.

“It's a historic recall,” says Clarence Ditlow, of the Center for Auto Safety.

Ditlow thinks manufacturers should pay for drivers' rental cars as long as they can't safely drive their own.

He says some dealerships, and some manufacturers like Honda, are paying for rental cars until the repairs can be made, but Volkswagen, which makes Rice's car, does not have a rental car program.

And if you get your own rental car, Ditlow says to keep track of expenses until there's a class action settlement.

“There's a good chance you will get compensation. It may not be 100 cents on the dollar, but even 50 cents on the dollar is pretty good,” he says.

Takata says 15 million replacement air bags have been made available to date, but drivers like Rice and Solis will have to keep waiting.

“I'm just extremely agitated, you know, afraid, nervous. All of the above. It's very disconcerting,” Rice says.

To see if your car is affected by the Takata air bag recall, visit the National Highway Transportation Safety Board's website.

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