An advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader has asked regulators to reopen their investigation of fuel tank ruptures and fires on some older Jeep models, saying that the vehicles need more extensive modifications to be safe.
One of the accidents cited by the Center for Auto Safety as proof that the Jeeps are still at risk, despite an ongoing recall, occurred in Melville on a rainy morning in 2014, killing the Jeep’s driver.
An investigation begun in 2010 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, found that by locating the plastic fuel tanks in those vehicles behind the rear axle, it made the tanks more prone to rupture in certain rear impact crashes, leading to fires.
Fiat Chrysler has insisted that the vehicles are as safe as comparable vehicles and meet or exceed all applicable federal safety standards in effect when they were produced.
But the company began recalling 1.56 million 1993 to 2004 Grand Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Libertys in June of 2013, a recall that is continuing. In the recall, Fiat Chrysler agreed to fit Jeeps that didn’t already have them with trailer hitches to help protect the gas tanks in low- to moderate-speed crashes.
But the Washington-based center, founded by Nader, contended in a Feb. 19 letter to regulators that, since the recall, at least 14 more people have died in crashes in which fire, as opposed to trauma, was the most harmful event, based on records at the NHTSA. It wants a new, more effective remedy.
In the Melville crash, on the Long Island Expressway, a tractor trailer struck the rear of a 2003 Jeep Liberty, according to Suffolk County Police.
An NHTSA spokesman said it would study the center’s letter and respond.