Recalls Fell Last Year, but Are Vehicles Safer?

U.S. motor vehicle recalls fell to 30.7 million in 2017. That’s the fewest since 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It follows a record number (53 million) in 2016, owed largely to an expansion of the Takata airbag inflator recalls and ongoing ignition switch recall of General Motors (GM) vehicles – the latter linked to 124 deaths so far.

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, NHTSA has not imposed any new vehicle safety fines and the agency remains without a permanent head.

That’s one of many reasons why owners need to better know about specific vehicle recalls. It would be a mistake for you to assume that because your car is several years old, or you responded to a recall a few years back, there may not be others associated with your vehicle. In December 2017, Fiat Chrysler issued a recall which covers faulty gear shifters in more than a million Dodge Ram trucks, dating back to their 2009 models. What else is out there?

It’s easy to keep track by logging onto the Consumer Reports Car Recall Tracker. Enter your car’s make and model and you’ll get a list of recalls, along with information on how to get the problems fixed. All repair work associated with safety-related recalls is usually offered free of charge at authorized dealerships.

Does NHTSA Protect Consumers or Promote Automakers?

The federal agency which was established as a protector of America’s drivers and auto buyers has a well-documented record of missteps that goes well beyond its failure to identify defects in cars and trucks bought by consumers.

Even as more cars were recalled for safety problems before 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was awarding yearly increases in certain vehicles’ safety ratings. Fully two-thirds of 2015 models tested by NHTSA received top safety ratings. According to an investigation by the New York Times, the safety “winner” information was then embraced and promoted by the proud automakers’ marketing teams.  But wait, there’s more.

Who Do You Trust?

There is also a history at the NHTSA of the “blurring of lines” between government regulators and the companies they are charged to monitor and control.  Several years ago, USA Today ran an exposé which contained some unsettling revelations.

From 1984 to 2010, the Department of Transportation inspector general revealed that 40 NHTSA officials left the safety agency to take highly-placed jobs with automakers and their law firms or as auto industry consultants or lobbyists. The group included four administrators, two deputy administrators, seven associate administrators and two chief counsels. And from 1999 to 2010, 23 auto industry executives moved into equally influential government transportation agency jobs.

The climax to this dual migration came in 2014 when NHTSA’s top safety administrator, David Strickland, a key author of strong auto mileage and emission standards, left the agency to join a law firm representing the automakers’ trade group.

With the Trump Administration’s commitment to aggressive promotion of business interests rather than consumer safety, as well as its well-documented pledge to “cut government spending” and “shrink” its workforce, one wonders if we destined to have to fend for ourselves, and our safety, even more?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash caused by a defective vehicle part, we encourage you to contact Kaplan Lawyers PC. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.