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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said owners of 7.8 million vehicles fitted with air bags manufactured by Japan's Takata Corp. are in danger and should have those vehicles seen by their dealers immediately.
The vehicles are at risk of air bag failure or air bag explosions, which could spray metal debris into the driver or passenger area, with potentially fatal consequences.
Many of the vehicles already have been the subject of safety recalls. But many have not been returned to dealers to have their air bags checked or replaced.
The vehicles involved include automobiles made by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and BMW - with Honda vehicles making up the bulk of the list.
Concerned automobile owners can check their vehicle identification numbers against a NHTSA listing online.
The affected vehicles, many of them manufactured between 2000 and 2004, are equipped with air bags made or containing parts made at Takata factories in the U.S. and Mexico. A problem with the air bags' propellant can cause the safety restraint systems to fail during a collision or even to deploy when no collision occurs.
Multiple accidents and some fatalities may be connected to the spontaneous explosion of the air bags, and the resulting spray of shrapnel into the driver's seat.
Vehicles being operated in areas subject to consistent high heat and humidity are especially at risk. The safety administration is particularly concerned about cars in Florida, areas of Texas near the Gulf of Mexico, as well as parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia.
For a complete list of vehicles subject to the air bag recall, go to http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Owners/NHTSA-statement-on-takata-air-bags