An Australian woman is fighting for life after becoming the first local victim of a global airbag recall crisis that has left drivers with gruesome injuries and affected millions of car owners.
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The 21-year-old Darwin woman was struck in the head by metal shrapnel propelled from her faulty airbag during a low-speed crash on Monday.
The Takata airbag in her Toyota RAV4 SUV was one of about 100 million worldwide, including 2.1 million in Australia, to be recalled.
It's believed tens of thousands of Australians may be driving death trap cars capable of decapitating passengers by sending shrapnel flying through their car during crashes that may only be minor.
Takata airbags have been attributed to 16 deaths worldwide including the near decapitation of American man Carlos Solis, who had a piece of metal fly into his neck when the airbag in his 2002 Honda Accord deployed after a minor bingle in Texas.
Florida driver Corey Burdick lost an eye when he crashed his 2001 Honda Civic into another car at just 24 km/hr.
Takata, a Japanese auto parts company, was fined $1.3 billion in February for deliberately hiding evidence that its airbag inflaters could explode with too much force, sending shrapnel flying.
It has led to the biggest recall in automotive history.
However, many Australian owners who have received recall notices have also reported that local dealerships are out of replacement parts, with some predictions that it will take five years to complete the global recall.
On Friday, Northern Territory police issued a warning following the near-death of the 21-year-old woman.
Police said she was driving a Toyota RAV4 SUV when another car turned across her path on a suburban street, resulting in a low speed collision.
It is understood the woman was not at fault.
She received serious head injuries and remains in Royal Darwin Hospital.
Sergeant Mark Casey, a crash investigator with NT emergency services, said in a statement that "this type of crash, in normal circumstances, would not have caused this level of injury".
"Investigations have revealed the vehicle was the subject of a worldwide recall for faulty airbag manufacture in 2015," he said.
"The recall involved approximately 100 million vehicles around the world, including 2.1 million vehicles in Australia."
Police have urged people to check the Recalls Australia website to see if their car is affected, and to make sure vehicles with the issue are rectified as soon as possible.
Toyota and Honda lead the local recall count, which includes 13 manufacturers and models ranging from city hatchbacks to four-wheel-drives and top-end Ferraris.
A spokesman for Toyota said this is the first Takata-related injury in Australia, and that the manufacturer is "cooperating with Northern Territory Police in their investigation".
Ammonium nitrate airbag inflators supplied by Takata are susceptible to moisture damage that can make them explode in an uncontrolled fashion, turning dashboard trim into lethal shrapnel.
Fiat Chrysler Automobilies has stopped using ammonium nitrate airbags in its cars.
Australian drivers frustrated by lengthy delays to airbag repairs have previously contacted Drive to say it is "wrong for us to be expected to drive potentially dangerous cars" while waiting for replacement components.
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