By on March 10, 2017

car wreck crash destroyed

Automobile manufacturers recalled an all-time high of 53.2 million vehicles in the United States last year. The record-breaking number would not have been possible without the continued expansion of the recall of extremely dangerous Takata airbag inflators, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. Of course, it’s not just Takata Corp. that helped make 2016 the worst year on record, so be sure to save your applause.

Encouraged by the Obama administration, the Department of Transportation enacted a whopping 927 recall campaigns last year. That’s 7 percent above the previous high set in 2015. Fatal accidents jumped up 10.5 percent that year, followed by another 8 percent in 2016.

That makes 2016 the third consecutive year that American automotive recalls have set a record. In the previous two decades, annual U.S. recalls only averaged between 10.2 million and 30.8 million. Meanwhile, automobile-related deaths from last year were the highest since 2007, which isn’t bad considering there are more people covering greater combined distances than ever before. Still, it’s a higher per-person incident rate than the record low set in 2014 — and it has creeped back up ever since.

Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, said that the gradual increase “cannot be our new normal. If a Titanic-sized ship sank every day for 11 days, we would overhaul maritime safety. Where is our outrage over losing 100 people every day on our roadways? We know what to do but we just are not doing it.”

Still, the DOT seems to be doing everything it can to ensure consumer safety by issuing recalls, while automakers continue to implement new safety systems into vehicles — something Hersman says she strongly advocates. In October, the National Safety Council, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and two other agencies announced the “Road to Zero Initiative,” which sets an impractical goal of zero traffic deaths by the year 2046.

[Source: Automotive News] [Image: perthhdproductions/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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18 Comments on “Hat Trick: Automotive Recalls Reach Record High for Third Year in a Row...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This story is conflating recalls with traffic deaths, which are only partially related.

    My son’s 11 Sonata has been recalled 12 times, I think. A couple of them are repeats for corrosion-related stuff that *could* happen in salty areas, and some were for emissions-related faults. Then there’s the infamous crankshaft debris recall, which would only be a safety issue if the engine blew at an inopportune time.

    The rise in recalls is a function of compressed development schedules and budgets, a litigious society, and rising quality expectations by consumers.

    As for road deaths, a more serious approach would require breathalyzer interlocks on every registered vehicle, and then you’d potentially cut road deaths by one third.

    And how do you enforce the use of seatbelts, which are the cheapest and best safety device? The automatic ones from the early 90s were terrible.

    “We know what to do but we just are not doing it.” What is that, exactly? I find Ms Hersman to be very competent (and attractive, btw), but this statement demands an actionable suggestion.

    The conundrum is that liberty permits people to take risks and kill themselves in their vehicles, but not to kill others while that happens. Beware the heavy hand of government which tries to solve the second problem by also solving the first.

    • 0 avatar

      Well litigation might drop if Trump and the GOP go through with their plan to reduce class action lawsuits (still smarting from Trump U fiasco, I guess).

    • 0 avatar

      I agree–this is a bizarre article. It jumps back and forth between recall statistics and fatality statistics. The connection? Your guess is as good as mine because the article doesn’t make one.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget phone jamming technology. In Houston the ratio of texting drivers to fully aware drivers is 80:20…

  • avatar

    I just received a “interim” recall notice for my 2012 Lexus for the Takata airbag. The notice, however, says they are “working on” the fix and until then, I should not drive the car with a passenger in the front. Great, I find the timing of the recall suspicious – it probably coincides with the warranty end. Now I have a car I am not supposed to use – except as limited, nor can I sell it without great loss due to unsatisfied pending recall.

  • avatar

    While it may be for a variety of reasons that the numbers are so high, but if things were the way they used to be (and possibly will be going forward) dangerous vehicles remained on the road until they were junked. Were there more deaths because of it? Of course, though it would be hard to put a number on it. But is the uptick because of vehicle problems? I doubt it. I believe with the number of miles driven going ever higher, plus the scourge of distracted driving I think a rise in annual deaths is all but a given. Fixes? Better in-car user interfaces and heavy fines for texting behind the wheel would help…I sure hope so otherwise the Safety Nazis will be clamoring for lower speed limits

    • 0 avatar

      “Safety Nazi” is an oxymoron.

    • 0 avatar

      Stiff fines for texting while driving have ironically resulted in an uptick in road fatalities in the states that have enacted such laws. Why?

      People are now texting with their phones in their laps so Mr. Officer can’t see that they’re texting as easily. Before, people would text but hold their phones closer to eye level and therefore better see the road. Now they’re just staring into their laps.

    • 0 avatar

      There have been studies, more studies, and yet more studies. None have changed the basic analysis that fatal accidents fall into three nearly equal categories: Alcohol or other chemical impairment, speeding/reckless driving, and weather related. Texting would be just one cause among several in the second category. Deaths caused by recalls or defective autos were not cited.

      It’s very possible the second and incidentally the third categories are responsible for most of the increase. I was driving on a freeway to a medical appointment when a moderate to heavy rainstorm hit. I pulled over to the right lane, turned on my lights, and slowed to 35-40 mph. Several cars flew past at 65-75, with no lights on, and I saw several try to change lanes and hydroplane an extra lane. There were three one car accidents I saw in the ten miles I traveled.

      I remain convinced that many stupid people are somehow obtaining driver’s licenses. I hesitate to call for a crackdown, since natural selection seems to be operating normally.

      • 0 avatar

        The problem is, stupid people getting licenses and being on the road may naturally select them out of the gene pool–but their stupidity at 75mph in a 4000 pound vehicle also selects other, innocent people at the same time.

        I say, crack down on the stupid actions with a hammer.

    • 0 avatar

      The issue isn’t “safety nazis” or people being worse drivers, it’s parts- and platform-sharing. I know it’s fun to blame the victims, but the reality is that this is due to issues well beyond consumers’ control.

      There’s a lack of mechanodiversity in automobiles, largely for cost reasons: it’s cheaper to leverage existing designs and resources than it is to have bespoke designs for each vehicle.

      You have two to three car/crossover platforms per OEM, pulled and stretched like taffy, with one or two engine options. The result is that a defect that would have affected a few hundred thousand cars now affects millions. Think about things VW’s MQB or Toyota’s 2AZ engine: they’re in millions of different makes and models across the planet, and any defect could trigger a recall in all of them.

  • avatar

    Had to work *hard* to nail that poor tree.

  • avatar

    Please reference deaths per vehicle mile driven in any comparison of fatality rates. Not saying death rate doesn’t matter, but not showing the metric related to vehicle safety performance is failing to give relevant information.

  • avatar

    Hey its the USA. Guns don’t kill cars do.

  • avatar

    I don’t really have a problem with the recalls, but what intrigues me is the top photo and so many others like it.

    What’s with the car into a tree? Do some trees have bullseyes painted on them so knuckleheads deliberately aim for them? That picture of the collision couldn’t be more dead-on!

    I’d like to know. I certainly make sure I steer clear of a tree when I see them, and I’ve never seen one move towards me when I drive!

    As for the tree, I hope it survived. The driver? I don’t care… unless it was a real medical emergency, not due to drunkenness or illegal substances or plain stupidity.

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