The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that it will be taking a more thorough look at Ford Explorer SUVs to determine whether there’s a defect or design flaw that’s putting vehicle occupants at risk.
The “engineering analysis”—an escalation of a preliminary analysis that began in July of 2016—will focus on possible leakage of carbon monoxide (CO) into the vehicles. Through July of 2017, the NHTSA had received more than 2,700 problem reports on these vehicles related to odors in the passenger compartment and concerns about CO exposure.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas produced by all gasoline engines. When someone is exposed to enough of it, he or she may experience dizziness, headaches, weakness, or nausea. As you breathe more, this may advance to vomiting, fainting, problems with vision, and disorientation.
In high enough concentrations, CO can be fatal. Between 400 and 500 Americans die each year from CO poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is usually directed outside the vehicle through the exhaust system, where it’s diluted into the air. But there seems to be a problem with these Explorers (from the 2011 to 2017 model years) that diverts CO into the passenger compartment.
The Police Interceptor model of the Explorer SUV has received special attention. Ford and the NHTSA have discovered that standard modifications made in the police model might result in a crack in the exhaust manifold, allowing the waste gas to leak into the ventilation system.
No deaths have been reported because of this problem, but there have been numerous injuries and several crashes, including one caught on dash cam video that was caused when a Newport Beach, California, police officer passed out at the wheel.
Numerous departments, among them Austin, Texas, and—closer to home—Auburn, Massachusetts, have pulled affected vehicles off the streets, at least until repairs are made. Six Auburn officers were hospitalized in early August over CO poisoning concerns, including one who lost consciousness while driving and caused a minor accident.
Some departments have installed CO detectors inside their vehicles to alert drivers when a problem arises.
This issue might affect more than 1.3 million vehicles, but no recall has been issued so far. Ford believes the problem with the Police Interceptors is related to after-market modifications made by third parties.
Repairs have been made at Ford’s expense to some police vehicles, including the fleet in Auburn, and this seems to have been successful. But there have been many complaints by owners of non-police vehicles, and unrepaired vehicles remain a risk both to their drivers and occupants and to anyone who might be in the way when a driver is overcome by CO and loses control.
A dangerous condition in even a few vehicles can put any other vehicle—and its occupants—at risk. If you’ve been harmed by a driver who experienced a problem because of CO poisoning, your claim to recover damages might not end with the driver; it could extend to the manufacturer of that vehicle if a design defect or production error led to that unsafe condition.
The attorneys at Joel H. Schwartz, PC understand the many factors involved in bringing a successful automobile accident case to a settlement or trial verdict (as well as what’s involved in a solid defective product claim).
Contact us today at 1-800-660-2270 or via the form below to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.