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Auto Defects and Recalls

More than 700,000 U.S. vehicles are being recalled by Fiat Chrysler for the same automotive defect that plagued General Motors last year: Faulty ignition switches.

Reuters reports that the affected models include the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans for the 2008-2010 model years as well as the 2009-2010 Dodge Journey SUVs.

Just like the GM cars, road conditions or a “jarring event” could cause the ignition in the Fiat Chrysler vehicles to switch from the on position to the off or accessory position, according to Reuters. If this sudden change occurs, it could cause the engine to suddenly shut off and disable a number of safety devices, including airbags, power steering and power brakes.

Until the repairs are made, motorists are urged to remove everything from their key rings, including the key fob, and only use the ignition key. Repairs on the 2008-2009 minivans and SUVs will begin in April, with the rest starting in August.

Why are Recalls on the Rise?

It was a record-breaking year for auto recalls in 2014. About 62 million U.S. vehicles were recalled by automakers, or “the equivalent of four years’ worth of cars sold here, or about one out of every four cars on the road today,” according to Consumer Reports.

GM alone recalled 2.6 million small cars for defective ignition switches, which have been blamed for 57 deaths and 90 injuries so far. By the end of 2014, the automaker had issued 84 recalls for almost 27 million of its vehicles – more than the number of recalls issued industry-wide in many past years.

Why are so many recalls happening?

According to experts, it is not necessarily because cars are more dangerous. Some automakers are certainly responsible for shoddy workmanship and have paid the price in fines from federal regulators and court challenges from the public.

But one bright spot of news is that government data shows traffic deaths have reached record lows, and a number of life-saving crash avoidance systems that were limited to luxury cars are becoming standard on more economical models.

Officials suggest that the high number of recalls indicates a system that is working better to catch deadly flaws. Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), told Consumer Reports that the agency has increased efforts to discover design defects in recent years.

However, he conceded that the agency is limited. Consumers brought 77,000 safety complaints to NHTSA last year, where a typical year usually nets 45,000. There are only seven to nine people to evaluate the claims, and only 16 investigators to research the complaints. That creates a gap which means that potentially life-threatening defects may be flying under the radar, particularly when automakers are slow or deliberately fail to report problems.

Pay Attention to Your Recall Notices

A recall does not have to make headlines to be an important one. If you receive a recall letter from your car’s manufacturer, don’t ignore it.

Keep in mind that if you own a used car, you may not be immediately aware of open recalls or whether the previous owner got the repairs done. This is why it is important to check that yourself.

Go to the manufacturer’s web site or use NHTSA’s recall lookup tool and search for the vehicle by its vehicle identification number (VIN). You can also contact your local dealer directly.

You Can Protect Others, Too

If you have been injured in an accident and suspect a defective vehicle or auto part is to blame, you can help others by reporting the incident to the automaker or through the NHTSA’s safety hotline.

You should also contact an attorney with experience in handling defective products claims in New Jersey and New York. You could be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses, which can make a great difference in your future health and financial well being.