Fatal Jeep Crash Renews Criticism of Recall Fix to Prevent Fires

A fatal accident this week involving a Jeep SUV has revived criticism from safety advocates that a federally sanctioned recall plan to keep the vehicle’s fuel tank from igniting in rear-end crashes didn’t go far enough to protect motorists.

Vicki Hill, 58, of Elyria, Ohio, died early Monday morning after her 2007 Jeep Liberty was rear-ended.

Hill’s Jeep Liberty was among more than 1 million sport utility vehicles that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV agreed to outfit with trailer hitches in 2013. The recall was announced after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that the fuel tanks, mounted between the rear suspension and the bumper of the vehicles, were vulnerable to leaks and fires in rear-end crashes.

Online records maintained by Fiat Chrysler show that Hill’s vehicle had the trailer hitch recall performed.

“Here is what appears to be a tragic incident that highlights the exact problems we were concerned about 18 months ago,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group that has urged NHTSA to reopen its investigation into the Jeep fires since at least February, 2016. “Our fear then and our fear today remains to be that the fix is not sufficient.”

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