Following Death Of Child, NHTSA Investigating Dodge Ram Ignition Switch

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into a possible Chrysler Group pickup truck ignition-switch defect that has resulted in one fatality.

According to a NHTSA report [PDF], the investigation involves more than 110,000 model year 2004-2006 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks in which the vehicles started without the clutch being engaged.

In an August 25 incident, a child was killed after another child was able to climb into the cab of a 2006 Ram 3500 truck and start the ignition without depressing the clutch. The vehicle began to roll, then struck and killed a child in front of the truck.

According to a complaint [PDF] filed with NHTSA, the clutch interlock safety switch had not been tampered with and was in its original condition but did not function properly. The switch has been tested and found to be defective.

In another instance [PDF] the owner of a 2006 Ram 3500 reported the ignition key was turned without the clutch engaged and the vehicle began to roll on its own due to a faulty clutch safety switch. According to NHTSA, the man, who was working under the truck’s hood when the incident occurred, was knocked to the ground, but was not injured.

Regulators initiated a preliminary evaluation on May 19 after receiving three complaints from consumers. Regulators will work to assess the scope, frequency and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect.

This is just the latest investigation into ignition-switch issues NHTSA has conducted this year.

General Motors has been the subject of several investigations related to the recall of 1.6 million vehicles for an ignition-switch problem that has been connected to at least 13 deaths and set-off a firestorm of inquiries into the company’s recall behavior.

The company faces multiple probes related to the faulty ignition switch recall, including inquests into how long the company knew about the deadly issue before warning drivers. Last week, GM was slapped on the wrist for $35 million for waiting 13 years to acknowledge an ignition defect it knew about before the first recalled vehicles hit the road.