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By Jim Adler January 4, 2017

Again, innocent and unsuspecting Americans are being menaced by defective vehicles prone to rollaway crashes. This time such crashes involve Ram 1500 pickup trucks from model years 2013-2016 and Dodge Durango SUVs from model years 2014-2016.

In December of 2016, federal agency the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating such vehicles for flaws which can lead to a rollaway crash even after drivers have shifted the vehicles into “park.” These vehicles are made by Fiat Chrysler.

Rollaway Killed ‘Star Trek’ Actor

A similar rollaway flaw reportedly was responsible for killing Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin, 27, in June of 2016. His 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was parked in his driveway with the engine running, suddenly rolled toward him and pinned him against a security fence and a brick mailbox pillar at his home in Studio City, a neighborhood in Los Angeles.

The actor, who appeared in three recent Star Trek movies, was asphyxiated when he was pinned by the vehicle, whose engine was still running when he was found by friends.

Yelchin’s home address received a recall notice about the rollaway defect seven days after his death. That defect involves a lack of safeguards to alert drivers that their vehicle is not in “park” when they leave the vehicle.

Fiat Chrysler also manufactures Jeep Grand Cherokees. In April of 2016 it announced a recall of 1.1 million vehicles over the gear shift issue, including more than 800,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees from model years 2014 and 2015.

Yelchin’s parents have taken legal action against Fiat Chrysler over the death of their son in the form of a wrongful death and product liability lawsuit for the rollaway crash.

New Electronic Gear Shifts

Dodge Ram 1500 pickups, Dodge Durango SUVs and Jeep Grand Cherokees have new “electronic” gear shifts. Such gear shifters may not make it readily apparent which gear is set. Gears are shifted via an electronic signal to the transmission via a rotary control on the center console, which returns to the same position after each gear is set.

Many auto manufacturers have started using electronic rotary gear shifters. But many drivers reportedly are confused by the new devices, which do not indicate gears as clearly as the mechanical gear shifters which have been used for decades.

rotary control rollaway crashes

Many manufacturers are turning to electronic rotary style shifts such as the one pictured on this console which could lead to driver confusion and cause accidents. Photo by algre (iStock by Getty Images)

That can contribute to the recent rollaway crashes, which also are known as park-to-reverse, unintended powered rollaway or false park accidents.

Durango, Ram Pickup Accidents

With Fiat Chrysler’s Durango SUV and Ram pickups, a number of accidents also have been reported. Already, 25 crashes involving nine injuries have been cited when Fiat Chrysler vehicles began rolling away after drivers believed they had placed them in “park.”

The NHTSA’s Office of Defects has received complaints from 43 owners of such vehicles regarding rollaways. The agency said 34 of the 43 complaints alleged that the vehicle rolled away despite the gear shift apparatus indicating that the vehicle was in “park.”

The NHTSA advises owners of such vehicles to apply the parking brake each time they stop and exit the vehicle. None of the drivers making rollaway reports had applied their parking brake.

Fiat Chrysler’s recall of 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans was designed to force the vehicles into “park” when the driver opens the door. So far no similar recall has been issued for Durango SUVs and Ram pickups.

NHTSA Also Probes Jaguar Land Rovers

The NHTSA also is probing Jaguar Land Rovers. On Dec. 27, 2016 it began investigating 39,000 models made by Jaguar Land Rover following complaints by seven owners that their vehicles rolled away.

In each case, the driver reportedly had reset the transmission gear selector into “park” position and left the vehicle with the engine running, after which it rolled away under its own power.

The NHTSA investigation is for 2012-2014 Jaguar XF and 2012-14 Land Rover Evoque vehicles. The Jaguar vehicles reportedly employ the same type of new electronic rotary gear shift devices as do the Fiat Chrysler vehicles which have been subject to rollaways.

Rollaway Accident Lawsuits

If you or a loved one has been injured in a rollaway crash, notify the experienced personal injury and product liability lawyers at Jim Adler & Associates. Rollaway accident lawsuits can help victims recover financially, with payments for such injury losses as medical costs, lost salary and pain and suffering.

Contact Jim Adler & Associates today for a free case review toward a possible rollaway injury lawsuit.

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