Drivers by the hundreds in Florida are reporting a serious vehicle defect that impairs vision and causes a safety hazard to them and others who share the road: Melting dashboards.

cardashboardApparently, heat and sunlight (a constant, particularly in South Florida) can result in dashboards that become sticky, shiny and cracked to the point that driving may be hazardous. Manufacturers insist the problem is isolated, but hundreds of complaints have collectively been issued to the makers of the cars, as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and several other consumer safety advocacy centers.

Beyond being a simple annoyance, drivers say the defect puts them at risk of involvement in a car accident because it makes seeing very difficult, especially in afternoon. No recall has yet been issued, as that usually takes report of a death or at least an accident. However, drivers are pushing for results in another way: A class action lawsuit has been filed, and we expect further litigation until auto manufacturers act to address this issue.

As our Tampa auto accident attorneys understand it, the lawsuit sites numerous examples of complaints dating back several years, specifically against Toyota, Lexus, Mazda and Nissan dealers. Some owners have indicated automakers have offered to pay half the cost of replacing the dashboard. But there are two problems: One is there is little assurance this will permanently fix the problem, particularly if the manufacturers plan to use the same provider of that part. Secondly, replacement of this part can run sometimes $2,400 or more. So by splitting the cost, the customer still has to pay $1,200 or more – for a vehicle defect they didn’t cause and is potentially very dangerous.

Several Florida media outlets have begun putting pressure on manufacturers and government safety regulators as well. WPTV-Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach, first conducted an investigation in April, and said since then, complaints about the issue have quadrupled.

Of the complaints made to the NHTSA, one man said his shiny, sticky dashboard made it difficult to see pedestrians. Another in Pembroke Pines wrote the glare led him to veer off the road and into an embankment. In Orlando, a motorist reported he was involved in a crash there due to glare from a melting dashboard. However, no one was injured. Two others in the Miami-area reported they crashed too.

Other drivers have simply reported the dashboard feels “wet like glue.”

At the Center for Auto Safety, officials are pushing for an official recall. Although government regulators have been quoted as saying the data thus far does not reflect a safety defect trend warranting further action, consumers are hoping the increase in complaints will change that position. They don’t want to wait until someone is killed or seriously injured for someone to take action.

As one driver was quoted as saying, “It would be nice for once to see an auto manufacturer own up to it, fix it. Don’t wait for people to get hurt. Just fix it.”

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet – and we’re not holding our breath that it will.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Melting dashboards cause 4 Florida crashes, according to government data, Sept. 3, 2014, By Jenn Strathman, WPTV-Channel 5

Hundreds of drivers say their dashboards are melting and car makers are not issuing a recall, June 16, 2014, By Jackie Callaway, ABC Action News, WFTS Tampa Bay

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