Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a new federal public awareness project which will be promoted under the banner, “Safe Cars Save Lives.” And it’s all about recalls.
We’ve been monitoring all the defective vehicles that have been let loose upon the roads of Indiana and Illinois for awhile now. For more background on how bad this recall problem is, read our posts that include the following:
- Feds Requiring Air Bags Be Kept After Recall — Why? Defendants Like to Get Rid of Possible Evidence Against Them
- Recalls Just Keep Happening: Car Makers Like General Motors May Be Responsible For Many, Many Serious Injuries And Deaths
- Air Bag Recalls Just Keep Coming: Is Your Car Dangerous?
Millions of Unrepaired and Defective Vehicles on the Road Today
Now, the federal government is spearheading a campaign to get people aware of this danger. NHTSA is trying to get folks to stop and check for vehicle recalls at least every six months, to see if there has been an announcement of a defect in their car, truck, SUV, or minivan. If so, NHTSA asks that they get their vehicles repaired as soon as they can.
(Note: This is IF they can. It’s entirely possible to take your car to the dealer for a recall fix, only to be told that they don’t have the part in stock, and that the recall fix isn’t available right now.)
According to NHTSA, there are 51,000,000 vehicles being driven in the United States today that have been recalled. That’s right: 51 MILLION. Meanwhile, their research shows that a good 25% of these defective motor vehicles are not fixed and are being driven with the defect in place.
“Safe Cars Save Lives is a critical effort for building public awareness of recalls and is the first national campaign aimed at empowering vehicle owners. Millions of vehicles are recalled every year. Old, new, used or leased – one of those recalled vehicles could be yours. Check your VIN – Safe Cars Save Lives.”
What is a Car Recall?
There are certain safety standards that are established by the federal government for all motor vehicles that are driven on American roads. NHTSA issues these vehicle safety standards and oversees their compliance by any car maker that is selling motor vehicles in the United States. It doesn’t matter if it’s an American car manufacturer or a foreign car maker, if their product is being sold for use on U.S. streets or highways, then the company has a legal duty to meet these federal safety standards.
Laws are one thing; obeying them is another. Having these federal safety standards doesn’t mean that these auto manufacturers always abide by them. Sometimes, mistakes are made. In other (and more scary) situations, they are intentionally ignored.
An example of this was revealed recently when General Motors made the corporate decision to keep quiet about problems with dangerous ignition switches in their cars; GM didn’t report the problem and didn’t issue any kind of recall. After an investigation by the Department of Justice, this intentional act by General Motors to keep silent and fail to recall a known product defect was found to be a criminal bad act.
In May 2015, the Attorney General announced the federal government’s intent to press criminal charges against the car maker as a result. By September 2015, federal criminal charges had been filed and the case settled with General Motors agreeing to pay $900 Million in fines for fraud in their failure to recall.
How Does a Car Owner Find Out Their Car Has Been Recalled?
A recall is issued either by NHTSA or voluntarily by the car maker when the problem is discovered. Federal regulations require that the car makers notify all registered owners and purchasers of the recalled vehicles of the recall in a letter sent to them by United States Postal Service First Class Mail. The notice has to give details of the problem, what dangers result from this problem, and where the vehicle can be fixed at no charge (the dealership).
Alternatively, the car maker can refund the full purchase price of the car and take its product back, or replace the defective vehicle with an identical or similar one. Guess how often that happens?
Most folk, however, discover their car, SUV, motorcycle, or minivan has been recalled either by media news stories or by their own research efforts.
To look up your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for possible recalls, check out the recall list at SaferCar.Gov.
Car Crashes and Motor Vehicle Accidents Where a Recalled Vehicle Is Involved
One of the biggest issues here is dealing with the reality that there are dangerous and defective cars on the roads today. Millions of them.
As you drive home from work, school, or the grocery store, here in Indiana or Illinois — look around you. How can you be sure that the GM cars (or the Toyotas or the Kias, etc.) driving at high speeds on the interstate alongside you are safe from defect? Are they a model that has been recalled? If so, has the defect been fixed?
It’s a danger that exists for everyone today who shares the roads with all these millions of recalled vehicles. If there is a crash involving one of these recalled cars, then what happens? Is the driver of the recalled vehicle to blame? Is the car maker?
Our next post will delve into the legal ramifications of all these recalled and unrepaired vehicles on our roads today — zipping alongside Hoosiers on the Borman Expressway, for instance, or barreling down I-90 next to unknowing Chicagoans.
Recalled vehicles not only cause car crashes, but they complicate the legal aftermath for all involved in that motor vehicle accident. These claims may involve more than negligence claims; they can also demand product liability and defective product claims be asserted against the car maker.
Getting these unrepaired, recalled vehicles fixed is a good thing for all of us, and we support NHTSA’s new “Safe Cars Safe Lives” public awareness campaign. Be careful out there!