Any significant manufacturing or design defects to your automobile can potentially lead to an accident; even one with fatal consequences. This begs the question, “How can you know if your car is defective before it causes an accident?”
In 1966, in response to a growing national epidemic of traffic accident fatalities, Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The law enabled the federal government to set safety standards for all motor vehicles. It also allowed the federal government to force manufacturers to recall and repair defective vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency that implements recalls and other safety measures under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The NHTSA initiates recalls based in part on consumer complaints it receives. So if you feel that your vehicle may be defective, you can contact the NHTSA.
There’s a common misperception that manufacturers offer “voluntary” recalls as well. This is a misnomer, as auto manufacturers are required by law to issue recalls when they know of a defect. There’s nothing voluntary about it.
Gathering Information on Auto Defects and Auto Recalls
The NHTSA does have a website where consumers can check for:
• Auto safety recalls – officially issued recalls of defective auto parts and systems
• Auto defect investigations – NHTSA investigations currently under way
• Auto safety complaints – complaints by car owners made to the NHTSA
• Auto service bulletins – notices sent to auto dealers outlining needed vehicle repairs
Regardless of whether or when auto defects become known, the responsibility for designing and building safe automobiles ultimately rests with the manufacturers and their suppliers. If they fail in that responsibility, they are by law accountable to those injured and to the families of those killed as a result of that failure.