Automotive Defects

What to do when a car crash is caused by a defect

Since the inception of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the nation’s highways are the safest in motoring history.

The rate of deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes has declined steadily. Yet, according to the NHTSA, crashes continue to kill and injure millions of Americans every year while draining more than $230 billion from the economy annually.

The NHTSA, created by the National Highway Safety Act in 1970, is responsible for reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. The agency accomplishes these tasks by investigating safety defects in motor vehicles; promoting the use of safety belts, child safety seats and air bags; and providing consumer information on motor vehicle safety.

The NHTSA also sets safety standards that must be met for all new vehicles and certain types of automotive equipment, such as child restraints, tires, and lights that are sold in the United States. In addition, the agency sets and enforces fuel economy standards, investigates odometer fraud, establishes and enforces vehicle anti-theft regulations, and provides community resources to combat drunken driving.

Nevertheless, the agency receives about 4,000 reports monthly of potential safety problems with vehicles and equipment. The NHTSA issues a monthly report citing the latest recalls. Some examples of defects that have prompted recalls: faulty air bags, improperly installed safety equipment, fragile car exteriors, or unreliable seatbelts.

Reaching the level of safety on today’s roadways has often come by the attention drawn to accidents with similar causes. A statistically improbable number of accidents caused by a specific source often can point to an automotive or equipment defect.

Recall requirements apply to vehicles and equipment up to 10 years old and to tires up to 5 years old.

Consumers can search for recalls or file a complaint by visiting, or by calling the DOT Vehicle Safety Hotline: 1-888-237-4236.