In many cases, a car accident is not caused by a driver’s reckless or negligent conduct. Sometimes, car crashes are caused by defective auto parts, or injuries in an accident are made worse because a safety feature failed to operate properly.
However, there is far more to the threat of faulty car parts. Vehicle defects cause thousands of accidents every year that do not make the headlines.
Consider the following data from a recent year, 2013, provided by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV):
As you can see, more than 10,000 crashes occurred over the course of the year in New York State alone in which a defective automotive part was a factor. (The DMV notes that, in some crashes, multiple factors played a role.)
According to the DMV, certain vehicle parts and systems are more likely than others to malfunction and cause crashes. Out of the automotive defect-related accidents in the year above, the following were the most frequently cited defects:
Let’s take a closer look at these defects:
Even when a car is traveling at a slow speed, it can be involved in a serious crash, such as a rear-end collision, if its brakes malfunction. Chevrolet’s Corvette, Porsches and Acuras made for the 2015 model year have all been recalled because of faulty brakes.
The relatively recent popularity of SUVs, large passenger trucks and vans has led to an increase in oversized-vehicle accidents. The problem is in the taller, narrower design of these vehicles. They have a higher center of gravity and are more prone to rollover accidents and to being buffeted by high winds. Even though rollovers occur in only about 3 percent of all serious crashes, they account for about 30 percent of people killed while riding in a passenger vehicle, Consumer Reports explains.
Tires are the most heavily recalled of all motor vehicle parts. For instance, GM recently called a halt to sales of several SUVs because their Goodyear tires were about to be recalled. A defective tire may suddenly deflate while a vehicle is running at high speed, particularly in a violent blowout or because of tread separation. The driver may lose control of the vehicle and crash.
The reliability of a vehicle’s steering system is as important as its brakes. If a hydraulic pipe breaks or there is a breakdown in the mechanical linkage in a car’s steering system, controlling the vehicle can become difficult if not impossible.
Faulty accelerators are most dangerous if they cause a vehicle to speed up unexpectedly and/or uncontrollably. In other cases, accelerators simply “stick” at a random speed, which can be just as dangerous. Toyota recently was fined $1.2 billion for making false statements about faulty accelerators that caused its vehicles to speed up uncontrollably and cause hundreds of accidents.
Some aspects of the Toyota faulty accelerator case are typical: After multiple fatalities tied to its stuck accelerators became a matter of public knowledge, Toyota blamed driver error. The company then issued a recall and said it would fix the problem. Later, evidence showed there was a design flaw that the manufacturer had known about for years. In this case, the car maker was fined for repeatedly lying to government regulators.
The Toyota accelerator recall, like many others, received wide press coverage. Others may not. Instead of relying on news reports, you can keep up with recalls of car parts and systems by routinely checking the government’s SaferCar.gov website.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a crash caused by an automotive defect, contact Powers & Santola, LLP.