Dodge Durango, Ram Pickup Truck Rollaway Accidents Lead to NHTSA Investigation

Amid dozens of reports involving rollaway accidents with Dodge Durango SUVs and Ram 1500 pickup trucks, federal safety officials have launched an investigation into the safety of about 1 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles that may move out of position, even when the gear selector is in the “Park” position.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the investigation on December 16, after receiving at least 43 reports of the vehicles being able to roll away after putting the gear selector knob in the park position. To date, at least 25 crashes and 9 injuries have been reported in connection to the roll-away problems.

The investigation will focus on a series of Durango SUV’s and Ram Pickup trucks equipped with electronically shifted transmissions and electric rotary control for driver gear selection.

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For decades, traditional shifters have offered easy positioning and visual assurance of the intended gear selection. However, several manufactures have incorporated newer knob-style electric rotary control gear selectors, which turn to select the intended gear. The design has been linked to consumer confusion, with drivers exiting the vehicle thinking the parking gear has been selected.

The NHTSA reported in their preliminary investigation announcement that the agency has received complaints from the owners of both 2013 through 2016 Ram 1500 trucks and 2014 through 2016 Dodge Durango vehicles. Of the 43 complaints, 34 owners reported that the vehicle began moving while the shifter was in the parked position and in several incidents the engine remained running after turning the vehicle off.

According to the reports, the parking brakes were not applied in any of the roll away incidents. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is fully cooperating with NHTSA officials during the investigation to determine the root cause of the problem, but recommends customers engage both the parking brake and turn the gear shifter to the park position before exiting vehicles.

FCA has already faced problems with vehicle roll away hazards, recalling more than 800,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Chargers, after receiving more than 100 crash reports and 41 injuries from the cars rolling away when the shifters were allegedly put in the park position.

According to FCA’s investigation of the recall, nothing was found to be mechanically wrong with the vehicles, but offered to upgrade the software to avoid further roll away hazards.

Roll away hazards are extremely dangerous, posing a risk of serious injuries and fatalities for occupants and bystanders. The NHTSA warns roll away accidents are especially dangerous when young children are being transported. In the event a child is buckled in the back seat and the caregiver walks around the vehicle as it begins to roll away, both the child and caregiver could be in serious danger.

An investigation is still underway from a reported death earlier this year of actor Anton Yelchin, who was killed after his recalled Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled into him, crushing him between a gate and a mail box. The fatality was part of FCA’s decision to recall the 800,000 vehicles in April. Whether the vehicles gear selector was put in the park position before the fatality took place has not been disclosed.

In addition to the Durango and Ram vehicles investigation, the NHTSA announced it will also be launching an investigation into a second series of vehicles for the same roll away hazards. The second NHTSA roll away investigation will involve nearly 40,000 2012 through 2014 Land Rover Evoque SUV’s and Jaguar XF sedans.

The NHTSA and other manufacturers such as Ford have been searching for alternatives and safeguards to prevent roll away hazards. Ford Motors announced it will be equipping its 2017 Ford Fusion with rotary gear controls with software that puts the car in Park if the driver gets out and the shifter is not in Park position.


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