Vehicle crashes are the primary cause of debilitating injuries in Florida, and the number one killer of Americans under the age of 34. Getting unsafe vehicles off the road is vital to improving traffic safety and saving lives. In an effort to do this, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues national vehicle safety standards, and manufacturers who fail to meet these standards are required to recall vehicles with proven safety-related defects. Since these laws have gone into effect, over 390 million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. alone to correct safety defects.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards exist for vehicle parts that affect safe operation – such as tires, signal lights and headlights, and brakes – or those that protect drivers and passengers from injury, such as seatbelts, airbags, and energy-absorbing steering columns. When a vehicle is recalled due to a defect in any of these parts, the manufacturer is required to remedy the problem at no charge to the vehicle owner.
Car malfunctions that are considered to be safety-related include:
• Defective steering components that cause sudden partial or complete loss of control.
• Fuel system components susceptible to crash damage, that may result in fuel leakage and possible vehicle fires.
• Faulty accelerator controls that may stick during acceleration or fail to accelerate.
• Defective wheels that can break, causing loss of vehicle control.
• Windshield wiper mechanisms that fail, creating visibility problems.
• Vehicle components that come apart or separate from the vehicle.
• Faulty electrical or computer problems that may cause a fire or loss of lighting.
• Airbags that open under conditions for which they are not intended to deploy.
Recently, General Motors announced a vast recall of nearly 8.5 million vehicles. Most of the vehicles (7,610,862) were recalled due to a problem with the ignition, cited by GM as an “unintended ignition key rotation.” The ignition-based recalls span seven different car models, including vehicles manufactured between 1997 and 2008. This group of automobiles includes:
• Chevrolet Malibu (’97 – ’05), Monte Carlo (2000 – ’05), and Impala (2000 – ’05)
• Oldsmobile Intrigue (’98 – ’02) and Alero (’99 – ’04)
• Pontiac Grand Am (’99 – ’05) and Grand Prix ((2004 – ’08)
An additional 616,000+ GM vehicles – all Cadillacs – also have a similar ignition issue and have been recalled, including the ’04 – ’06 SRX, the ’03 – ’13 CTS, and the 2014 CTS Coupe and Wagon.
Other GM recalls (a total of 221,000) are based upon faulty insulation on the engine block heater power cord, “Superhold” joint fasteners not torqued to specification during assembly, a possible electrical feed overload in the underhood fusible link (potentially causing electrical fire), and a possible electrical short in driver’s door module that may disable the power door lock and window switches and/or overheat the module. Vehicle makes for these recalls include Chevrolet (Cruz, Sonic, Trax, Camaro, Impala, Silverado, and Trailblazer); Buick (Encore, Verano, Regal, and Ranier); Cadillac (XTS); GMC (Sierra and Envoy); Isuzu (Ascender); and Saab (9-7X). For specific models and production years for these additional recalls, owners of these car makes can access the NHTSA search engine to search for recalls on their vehicle.
A GM spokesperson noted that there have been seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities related to the recalled vehicles. Although the fatalities occurred in older model full-size sedans that have been recalled due to ignition rotation issues, GM insisted in a recent press release that there is no conclusive evidence that the defect condition was the cause of those crashes.