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Fatalities in Tire-related Crashes of Ford Explorers,
Ford Explorer Sports, Mercury Mountaineers,
and Mazda Navajos Through 2017


Fatal, tire-related crash.

Cumulative Deaths in Tire-related Crashes of Ford Explorers, Ford Explorer Sports, Mercury Mountaineers, and Mazda Navajos by Date of Crash
Cumulative Deaths in Tire-related Crashes of Ford Explorers, Ford Explorer Sports,
Mercury Mountaineers, and Mazda Navajos by Date of Crash.

In the summer of 2000, Ford Explorers fitted with certain Firestone tires became the subject of the most widely publicized scandal in motor vehicle history to that time. These tires were the subject of a $3 billion tire replacement program by Ford because the tires represented an unreasonable risk to consumers. According to testimony to Congress by Ford's then-CEO, Mr. Jacques Nasser, "The data tell us that the problem is with the tires and not the vehicle." Based on this analysis, it was believed by some that the recalls by Firestone and the tire replacement program by Ford would be effective to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries linked to the Explorer's tires.

Unfortunately, the well-known tire recalls and replacement campaigns by both Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone did not achieve long-term effectiveness in eliminating tire-related deaths involving the first- and second-generation Ford Explorer fleet and its corporate twin vehicles (hereinafter "the Explorer fleet"). There were 23 fatalities in tire-related crashes involving the Explorer fleet in 2017, compared to 22 fatalities in tire-related crashes of the Explorer in 1998, when the problem first became obvious in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) Fatality Analysis Reporting System data.

Through the end of 2017, there have been 957 total deaths involving tire-related crashes of first- and second-generation Explorers (model years 1991-2001) and their twins, the Ford Explorer Sport (model years 2001-2003), the Mercury Mountaineer (model years 1997-2001), and the Mazda Navajo (model years 1991-1994) despite the recall remedy for the defective tires. (The underlying methodology used for this calculation is described in the presentation, "Quantifying Tire-related Deaths and Injuries in U.S. Motor Vehicles", slides 40 and 41. The makes and models of these vehicles were identified on the basis of their Vehicle Identification Numbers.) There have been more than nine times as many reported fatalities related to tire failures in the Explorer fleet through the end of 2017 than there had been up to the time the scandal was first called "a national tragedy" in Congressional testimony in 2000.

Research in 2004, "Improving Surveillance for Injuries Associated with Potential Motor Vehicle Safety Defects," showed that a scientific, early warning system would have provided an important indication of the problem in the Ford Explorer fleet based on tire-related, single vehicle fatal crashes in calendar year 1998. In that year, the 22 fatalities in tire-related crashes involving the Explorer fleet accounted for three percent of the 684 total tire-related fatalities in crashes of all light-duty passenger vehicles. Nineteen years later in 2017, 23 fatalities in tire-related crashes involving the same Explorer fleet accounted for four percent of the 582 total fatalities in tire-related crashes of all light-duty passenger vehicles combined - even though none of these vehicles has been produced since 2003.

It is indeed a national tragedy that there have been an additional 736 tire-related fatalities involving the first- and second-generation Explorer fleet since the end of the tire recalls and replacement campaigns by Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone. Yet this tragedy has not resulted in an appropriate, effective response either by the Congress or by NHTSA to mitigate these continuing casualties.

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