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Eighteen Months Into Jeep Recall, Drivers Still Dying in Car Fires

Jan 14, 2015

Eighteen months after Chrysler began a recall of Jeeps with exploding gas tanks, more than 1 million vehicles remain unrepaired and drivers are still dying in accidents.

Safety regulators have called for executives to do more to reach owners of the affected Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee models, which can catch fire after being rear-ended. Since the recall began in June 2013, at least six people have died in five crashes, including a pregnant Michigan woman, the Chicago Tribune reports. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy group, said Chrysler showed a "callous disregard for human life."

Chrysler said it is moving as quickly as possible to locate the owners of the affected vehicles but vehicles that are between seven and 20 years old may have been sold to second or third owners. Last month, at a meeting in Washington, company representatives told regulators they would redouble efforts to reach more owners, according to the Tribune.

Regulators have identified 56 fatalities in 38 crashes involving 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty and 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee models. During a recall, the automaker must report quarterly on how many cars have been fixed, according to the Tribune. Chrysler repaired only 3 percent of the 1.56 million recalled vehicles in the previous six months, the lowest rate of any recall of more than 1 million vehicles in the past five years, a review of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed.

In accidents since the recall began, Kayla White, 23, was killed when her 2003 Jeep Liberty was struck from behind and burst into flames. White, who was pregnant with her first child, died at the scene, the Tribune reports. Two days before White’s death, a 58-year-old Virginia man was killed when his 2007 Jeep was rear-ended while it was stalled on a bridge in Henrico County, Virginia. The other fatal crashes occurred in Maryland, California and Massachusetts, according to the Center for Auto Safety.

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