By Ron Regan
A major automaker is warning drivers of a potential rollaway risk involving hundreds of thousands of vehicles.
A spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler says recent reports of alleged rollaways involving several different models serve as a "cautionary tale" and urges "driver attention."
Last April, Fiat Chrysler conducted a voluntary safety recall affecting more than 800,000 vehicles after identifying 700 field reports potentially related to rollaways including 212 crashes, 308 claims of property damage and 41 injuries.
Vehicles include the 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2012 thorough 2014 Chrysler 300/Dodger Charger vehicles.
The voluntary recall followed a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into complaints that was launched on August 20, 2015 and Chrysler has since offered owners a remedy to fix the issue.
Chrysler notes that neither the company nor NHTSA determined a mechanical or electronic defect but instead found the cause of "unintended vehicle movement" is the "driver's decision to exit the vehicle with the engine running and without confirming the vehicle is in park and choosing not to set the parking brake."
Chrysler is warning drivers to follow instructions in their vehicles manual to prevent unintended rollbacks.
The death of 27-year-old Anton Yelchin who starred in the "Star Trek" remakes last June remains under investigation after his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee allegedly rolled backward - pinning him against a gate.
But an exclusive News 5 investigation found it was not the first time that the automaker has been faced with concerns about possible vehicle rollbacks.
On April 1, 2014, Chrysler wrote to federal regulators alerting them of a "safety defect" determined in as many as 125 Ram 1500 trucks in the model year 2014.
An April 25, 2014, letter from NHTSA to Chrysler acknowledged the notification and found that "if the park pawl does not properly engage, the vehicle may rollaway, increasing the risk of a crash and occupant or pedestrian injuries."
Chrysler determined the defect involved the model year 2014 RAM 1500 trucks built between January 24, 2014 and February 5, 2014 with "improperly machined transmission cases."
Chrysler reported that it was unaware of any accident or injuries potentially related to this issue and initiated a voluntary safety recall on March 25, 2014.
But our investigation uncovered additional, puzzling complaints involving RAM 1500 trucks built just a later involving potential rollaways.
In Ohio, Kamal Parker complained to federal regulators last July that his 2015 RAM 1500 rolled backwards into a pond.
Parker insists the vehicle "kicked itself out of park and started rolling back."
We found two additional complaints filed with federal regulators alleging similar rollbacks for the same model year.
Chrysler says there is no connection between issues involving the 2014 RAM trucks and what allegedly occurred with Parker's vehicle and others.
Regarding Parker's incident, Chrysler issued this statement:
"This vehicle, which is equipped with Brake Transmission Shift Interlock, was subjected to a 23-point inspection by an accredited, independent professional. The reported event could not be duplicated. The company urges customers to follow the operating instructions in their owner's manuals".
In addition, Chrysler points out that it sold 280,000 RAM 1500 in 2015 and "if driven conservatively once per day, every day, over the course of a year, customers safely exited these vehicles more than 2014 million times".
Even so, a leading auto safety advocate is urging both federal regulators and Chrysler to dig deeper.
Sean Kane, President of Safety Research & Strategies, says "we're looking at complaints that don't match up against human factors problems" and believes more investigation into what's behind alleged rollbacks needs to be done.