The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into an estimated 110,000 Dodge Ram pickup trucks, manufactured by Chrysler Group LLC, that potentially can be started in gear. The probe comes after a child was hit and killed by a truck started by another child. NHTSA opened the preliminary evaluation on May 19 after receiving three vehicle-owner complaints alleging that 2004 and 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks had malfunctioning clutch interlock switches, allowing the vehicles to be started while in gear. This is according to documents posted on the regulator’s website. The NHTSA notice said:
One complaint involved an incident that occurred when a child was able to enter the vehicle and start the ignition without depressing the clutch. The vehicle then moved forward, striking another child, resulting in a fatality.
A clutch interlock is intended to prevent a vehicle’s starter from running when the driver is not pressing the clutch pedal, which is meant to prevent the car from being started already in gear, and thus starting to move immediately. According to NHTSA, another incident occurred where an individual was working under the hood of his/her truck when the engine was cranked without the clutch being pressed, but the interlock failed to prevent the engine from moving and hitting the individual working under the hood. The individual was knocked to the ground, but did not report any injuries. The investigation by NHTSA will assess the scope, frequency and potential safety consequences associated with the alleged defect.
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