Niagara Gazette

Features

April 18, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Safety recalls -- How a defect becomes a recall

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Now for a little history lesson. The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act enacted in 1966 gives the DOT (Department Of Transportation) and the NHTSA the authority to issue safety standards and to require manufacturers to recall vehicles with safety related defects. Since the enacting of this bill, hundreds of millions of vehicles have been recalled to correct safety related defects. Many of these recalls have been initiated (voluntarily) by the manufacturers, while others have been either influenced or ordered by the courts. If a safety defect is discovered, the manufacturer must notify the NHTSA, as well as the vehicle owners, dealers, and distributors. The manufacturer is required to remedy the problem at no charge to the vehicle owner. NHTSA is responsible for monitoring the manufacturer’s corrective action for adequacy as well as compliance with statutory requirements.

What is a safety defect?

A safety-related defect is one that exists in a motor vehicle or the equipment thereof that poses an unreasonable risk to safety and is common to a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture. We’re not talking about creature comforts such as air conditioning or stereo systems. This is serious stuff that could compromise your safety!

For example:

• Steering components that may break suddenly causing loss of control of the vehicle

• Accelerator controls that may break or stick

• Leaky fuel systems that can cause vehicle stalling or fire

• Windshield wiper arms that fall off during operation

• Seats and/or seat backs that fail unexpectedly during normal use

• Gas tanks that might blow up upon rear impact of the vehicle

How does the NHTSA go about conducting an investigation to see whether a recall is in order? There are four steps in the process:

Screening process: The ODI (Office of Defects Investigation) starts a preliminary review of consumer complaints and other information related to alleged defects to decide whether an investigation should be opened.

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