Today, the 2012 recall report was released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a branch of the United States Department of Transportation. In 650 safety recalls for cars, tires, child safety seats and other equipment, over 17.8 million were products were affected. It’s a huge number, but it fails to break any safety records.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires recalls for transportation related products because of either a defect or a compliance issue. The greatest number of recalls occurred in 2008 when 781 separate recalls were issued. However, that isn’t the greatest number of products recalled. That occurred in 2000 when 44.6 million products were affected under 626 recalls.

"Every day millions of motorists are safe on our nation's roadways because of the work and dedication of our defect investigation and compliance teams here at NHTSA," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We have one of the most effective programs in the world and will continue, in 2013, to pursue investigations and recalls wherever our data justifies doing so."

In the case of defective products, the company responsible for designing, manufacturing or selling the product may be facing budget shortages, a deadline or some other factor that prompts them to cut corners. When that happens, the company could neglect certain details that lead to problems with the product.

Consider a retreaded or defective tire. Not every driver would notice the problems with the tires and the defects are very dangerous to the occupants of the vehicle and the nearby vehicles. When a tire blows out or fails in some sort of way, there’s a higher chance of a rollover crash. Rollover crashes have a high incidence of death and injury and account for a third of all car accident deaths. In any case, tire defects can cause the driver to lose control and cause an accident.

Of the ways a product could be defective, there are generally three areas where there may have been negligence. First, the product design could be flawed and fail to comply with safety standards. An example of this is the child safety seats that are recalled. They are meant to keep the child safe, but a problem with the restraint design could actually cause greater injury in a car accident.

Secondly, manufacturing defects could arise if the process of creating the product is flawed from the intended design. Usually, this happens because of a malfunction in the factory when the product was made. Perhaps the rubber manufacturer created a bad batch or the product wasn’t properly assembled.

Finally, it could be the marketing side that fails to prevent an injury. Some products require safety warnings so the consumer uses the product correctly. Every tire comes with a placard informing the consumer of the proper pressure to inflate the tires. Improper inflation could lead to serious problems and it’s the company’s duty to prevent that.