Operating a motor vehicle is risky enough on its own (the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that there were 33,654 fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2018 alone, along with even more non-fatal accidents). Beyond collisions themselves, though, motorists also have to contend with hidden defects in their automobiles, some of which could lead to disaster on the road.
Now, if you’re a resident of the Golden State, you have rights under the California Lemon law, requiring that “a vehicle manufacturer that is unable to repair a vehicle to conform to the manufacturer’s express warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts” must replace or repurchase said vehicle. So, if your vehicle does have a manufacturer defect, the manufacturer bears responsibility for that.
Still, you’ll want to stay abreast of most lethal common defects that exist in automobiles, so we’ve prepared the following list of the top five design flaws that have spanned modern automobile history.
You may recall, back in the earlier 2000s, reports of Toyota automobiles suddenly accelerating (much to the surprise of their drivers). The problem was attributed to the vehicles’ floor mats and pedals, though some suspect faulty electronic throttle control systems for the issue (Toyota denied this claim). In total, though, the incident was linked to over 8 million vehicle recalls, 89 deaths, and 57 injuries.
If you were around in the 90s, you might remember Firestone tires getting bombarded with bad press because their tires were falling apart, and, in many cases, causing spontaneous blowouts that claimed the lives of 271 motorists (while injuring more than 700). An unexpected blowout is one of the most terrifying things a motorist can experience, and faulty tires increase the risk by many degrees.
Cars have a bevy of electronic components that control all manner of functionality. A small defect might cause something like the power windows to stop operating, but a more critical defect might result in a vehicle shutdown on the road, leaving the driver without the ability to brake or steer. Such was the case with General Motors, when they installed defective ignition switches on some of their vehicles, resulting in multiple deaths and over 2.5 million recalled vehicles.
Airbags are intended to protect motorists, but when improperly installed or poorly constructed, they can cause serious injuries. Case in point, airbag manufacturer Takata had to recall 63 million airbags because of a defect that caused them to explode upon deployment.
Like airbags, seatbelts are a feature intended to safeguard occupants from injury, and like airbags, these too can fail if there’s a flaw in their design. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, recently had to recall 29,679 vehicles because of an issue with their seatbelts that could have led to serious injuries for drivers and passengers alike.