Drivers often overlook important safety issues such as vehicle defects, recalls, and proper maintenance that contribute to dangerous auto accidents. A vehicle’s age and style, and the type and scope of a safety-related recall have a significant impact on whether or not a recall is addressed or repairs are ever completed. When motor vehicle owners fail to make repairs, perform maintenance or address safety-related recalls, they place themselves, their families and other motorists at risk for serious injury and death.
Overlooked Safety Issues
Ignoring important safety issues and neglecting routine maintenance on a vehicle can result in car accidents that cause serious injuries and fatalities. Vehicle defects and poor maintenance can lead to poor visibility, loss of control, failed safety systems and more, creating dangerous situations while behind the wheel. Commonly overlooked safety issues include:
Damaged headlights can reduce visibility, especially in bad weather or at night, raising the risk for accidents. Scratches and cracks in plastic lenses are often caused by road debris, rocks and gravel, and slush. When headlights are cracked, moisture can penetrate the lenses leading to dim bulbs and frequent, costly bulb replacement.
Worn Out Bumpers
Any type of minor fender bender or collision can create unsafe bumpers. Even if bumpers look good from the outside, they may be damaged on the inside. Most newer bumpers have a dense foam material inside that absorbs impact in a crash, but it only works one time.
Tires with improper air pressure or worn or separating tread cause many crashes seen by a car accident lawyer. Improperly-inflated tires are prone to blowouts, especially in hot weather. Worn or separating tire tread causes skids and loss of control which can lead to collisions and rollover accidents.
Steering components often suffer damage due to weather-related conditions and corrosion. Many winter chemicals used to lubricate steering and suspension parts can cause damage to internal components because they penetrate past protective seals. Steering problems can cause drivers to have limited or complete loss of control of their vehicles, raising the risk of an injury accident.
Faulty Brake Lines
Brake lines are susceptible to breakage and rust, especially in locations with salty air, freezing temperatures, and heavy rain and snow where corrosive chemicals are used on roads. Fluid leaks, rust, and squealing or grinding noises often indicate signs of faulty brake lines.
Safety Defects and Recalls
When safety defects are discovered, car manufacturers are required to notify the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), as well as vehicle dealers, distributors, and owners. Safety defects include any problems with a motor vehicle or its equipment that create a safety risk for drivers and passengers. An alarming number of Americans are choosing to ignore warnings about safety defects and federally issued recalls putting themselves and other drivers at risk for accidents and injuries. According to J.D. Power, more than 45 million recalled vehicles between 2013 and 2015 have not been brought in for repairs.
NHTSA requires manufacturers to repair safety defects on recalled vehicles free of charge, so why are so many people ignoring these important repairs? Many safety experts claim that the overwhelming number of national recalls each year has triggered a sort of numbed mindset for motorists. Evaluating the behavioral trends of car and truck owners and other factors that impact recall completion rates can help improve safety on America’s roadways. According to J.D. Power:
- Newer models are more likely to be repaired than older models.
- Large work vans and expensive SUVs are the most likely to have safety defects corrected.
- Mid-priced sports cars and large SUVs have the lowest repair completion rates.
- The types of recalls most likely to be completed involve repairs to a vehicle’s brakes, powertrain, and electrical system.
- Repairs ignored most often include defective suspension systems and airbags.
According to NHTSA, more than 51 million vehicles were recalled during 2015, surpassing the number of recalls in any previous year and outstripping the 17.5 million light-duty vehicles that were sold that same year. Since 2008, over 20 million vehicles with defective airbags have been recalled for sensor problems that allow airbags to deploy without impact or fail to deploy at all. Since 2014, over 800,000 trucks have been recalled for defective power steering systems that resulted in trucking accidents.
When recalls are issued, manufacturers are required to contact every owner of the record for that particular model by mail. However, this usually excludes second or third owners, which helps to explain why older car models have higher percentages of uncorrected safety defects. To promote car safety and protect consumers from safety defects, NHTSA maintains a free online database that allows consumers to determine if cars they currently own, as well as cars they may purchase, present safety risks due to uncorrected safety defects and recalls.