3 On Your Side Investigates: Driving Dangers - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side Investigates: Driving Dangers

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

We count on police and firefighters to protect us and keep us safe, but who's keeping these employees safe while they're on the roads?

A month-long 3 On Your Side Investigation reveals hundreds of city vehicles in the metro with recalls that haven't been fixed, most of which are serious. And most city employees may not even know it's a problem.

In 2015, more than 51 million cars and trucks got hit with a recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

That's nearly 20 percent of all vehicles owned in the U.S.

Over the last month, we pored through more than 2,200 vehicles owned or leased by seven cities to see how many still have recalls.

Some read like a horror movie: fires that start even if the vehicle is turned off, headlights shutting down without warning, and seat belts that don't work.

Here are our findings:

Flowood has a higher percentage than any other city; 35 percent of its vehicles have open recalls.

Contrast that with Pearl (26 percent), Jackson (24 percent), Brandon (17 percent) and Clinton (17 percent).

Ridgeland rounds out our analysis with the lowest percentage of vehicles with open recalls, 10 percent.

Altogether we discovered nearly 500 vehicles have at least one outstanding recall. More than half of those belong to law enforcement.

"When we get a recall, we proactively try and get that car in as soon as we can," said Madison Police Dept. Capt. Kevin Newman.

Newman said he's not surprised at our findings: nearly a third of the department's vehicles there are recalled.

“What happens in our case, and as you see behind me, they’re all Dodge Chargers. When we get a recall on one, it’s usually a recall on all. And we can’t send them all to the dealership at the same time for public safety reasons," added Newman.

We counted 163 Dodge Chargers with outstanding recalls in the metro. Newman said they haven't taken any of theirs off the road.
"We would not ground or deadline a unit and take it out of service unless that was the recommendation from the dealership or the manufacturer," said Newman.

Eight of Madison PD's vehicles are part of the Takata airbag recall. In most of these, the airbag's release could result in "metal fragments" striking the driver.

Some experts say the vehicles shouldn't be driven at all.

"We've had windshields busted, blown out," said Mechanical Manager B. J. Dickerson. "It's a pretty substantial explosion inside a car when an airbag goes off." 

We found more than 150 vehicles subject to that Takata airbag recall within those seven cities, including the 2011 Cadillac Escalade that Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee drives.

Ridgeland City Clerk Paula Tierce thanked 3 On Your Side for telling them about the problems, saying those vehicles that don't have a fix available will be parked until they're repaired or determined safe to drive.

Then we reached out to Brandon City Clerk Angela Bean, but our calls and visit went answered.

Flowood's Greg Wilcox said they had at least 19 vehicles with recalls, some being rotated through for repairs.

We discovered more than twice that number, according to NHTSA records.

Wilcox said seven vehicles couldn't be repaired because of parts they're waiting on from the dealership, even though that particular recall was issued nearly a year ago.

We also got no answers from Jackson Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine nor Pearl Mayor Jake Windham.

That leaves the city of Clinton.

Mayor Phil Fisher told us they don't have 25 vehicles recalled -- contrary to what NHTSA records indicated.

He says that number is actually 15, with 9 already scheduled for repair.

But 6 can't be fixed because they're Takata airbag recalls.

And Fisher said those won't be taken off the roads.

"If the direction from the car manufacturer is that these vehicles should be parked, then they need to provide us with six vehicles so we can keep moving while they fix their problem," said Fisher.

Still, Capt. Newman says he'll take our records and check his fleet, just to make sure.

"In the last at least 25 years, there's never been an accident involving one of our vehicles that was the result of a default or other issue," said Newman.

Given the number of police vehicles we've found that were affected, 286, odds are something could happen if these cars and trucks aren't repaired.

There may be more recalls than what we found in our investigation, too.

More than 400 vehicle identification numbers we got from city clerks ended up being invalid and didn't work, meaning we couldn't determine whether those vehicles had recalls or not.

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