In many ways, our personal lives (and even the structure of the entire economy) are built around the automobile. Roads and cars have shaped our cities as much as they shape our lives.
Yet no matter how luxurious or convenient they are, there is no doubt they can be dangerous. Each year, around 30,000 Americans are killed in automobile accidents. Along with the enormous emotional toll this amounts to, it’s estimated that accidents end up costing more than $230 billion each year.
In the past 50 years, there has been a continuous effort to make cars and roads safer. One of the key pieces of legislation in this effort was the founding of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). This organization requires manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety defects or that fail to meet federal safety standards. As a result, everything from ignition switches to faulty tires have been subject to almost 400 million cars recalls since 1966.
How does a recall happen?
Have you ever wondered who decides to issue an automobile safety recall? Contrary to perception, it is usually not the manufacturers who issue the recall, but the government.
A recall is instigated when any part of a vehicle fails to meet the minimum safety requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or when any safety defect is found in the vehicle.
Needless to say, defects can differ in degree of severity. Still, even seemingly minor ones can be hazardous to drivers, passengers and others on the road.
Certain defects—such as a bad air conditioner or a malfunctioning radio—do not qualify as safety defects and therefore would not be part of a recall. It should also be noted that potential safety hazards caused by normal wear and tear in equipment such as brake pads, batteries or shock absorbers are not included in recalls.
Find out which kinds of problems do prompt a recall in the next post.