Unfixed Recalled Vehicles Still Endangering Americans – Jeeps in this Case
Tomorrow President Obama will try to divert public attention from his failures to protect Americans from crash injuries by touting DOT funding of research of auto companies.“Washington — President Barack Obama on Tuesday will tout the importance of “vehicle to vehicle” technology research that could one day help save tens of thousands of road deaths, the White House said.”
“The speech may provide Obama’s most significant direct remarks on auto safety since taking office. Despite Toyota Motor Corp.’s sudden acceleration crisis in 2010 and General Motors Co.’s ongoing ignition switch problem and massive recalls, Obama has said little about road safety during his tenure.
“Instead he has repeatedly focused on his administration’s efforts to improve fuel efficiency and the fact that the administration saved General Motors and Chrysler Group LLC as part of the $85 billion auto bailout.”
Lincoln reportedly said “You can fool all of the people some of the time…”
President Obama will not do that this time. The record is now too well known by too many people. More Americans died of crash injuries under Mr. Obama than died in the Iraq, Afghanistan, Viet Nam and Korean wars combined. Under President Obama more than 180,000 Americans died of crash injuries nearly 1 million suffered serious injuries and societal costs are approaching several Trillion dollars. See p. 18 crash deaths by year http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812032.pdf
Buick / Opel
Is it any wonder that President Obama’s poll numbers are at a low?
A must read “reality check” has been published in the LA Times by a giant of auto safety.
The answer to that question is that NHTSA is abysmally underfunded and understaffed, and lacks a foundation of tough laws to support its regulatory mission. Nothing in today’s political environment suggests that is going to change soon.”
Based on my decades of work at NHTSA and now trying to shine the light on NHTSA’s captivity by corporate interests, I must support his grim conclusion.
When the President of the U.S.A. briefly mentioned auto safety – without noting the problem of more than 150,000 crash deaths on his watch – he used a black Cadillac as a photo prop. He looked like a corporate puppet moving on the strings of GM. How’s that for use of the bully pulpit?
But when business gets its say on Capitol Hill and the White House too, what’s the ordinary person to do?”
Yesterday the record of GM stonewalling was made higher and deeper.
Even a glimmer of hope offered in proposed legislation was grudgingly supported by GM with caveats and loopholes that GM plans to use with complicit government agencies and GM lobbyists. See
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Giselle Barry (Markey) 202-224-2742
VIDEO: GM Expresses Support for Markey-Blumenthal Legislative Efforts Mandating More Early Warning Data Be Made Available to the Public
In wake of GM recall, Senators introduced legislation to increase transparency and earlier reporting of auto defects
Washington (July 17, 2014) – Today at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on the GM recalls, GM CEO Mary T. Barra expressed her support for components of the legislation introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that would ensure more transparency and earlier reporting of safety issues to prevent auto injuries and fatalities. The legislation, S. 2151 the Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act, would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) make the information it receives from auto manufacturers publicly available in a searchable, user-friendly format so that consumers and independent safety experts can evaluate potential safety defects themselves. GM has admitted to knowing for at least a decade about the ignition switch defect in Chevy Cobalts and Saturn Ions that have led to the historic recall, while NHTSA failed to act more quickly and aggressively on accident reports and other information it had to investigate the defect.
“We support efforts to make the NHTSA website more accessible and useful,” said Ms. Barra in response to a question from Senator Markey on whether GM would support the legislation. “We also support efforts to make reports on fatalities and early warning data more available to the public as long as the right provisions are there to protect privacy and to protect confidential information from an overall perspective.”
Specifically, the Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act:
· Requires automobile and equipment manufacturers to automatically submit the accident report or other document that first alerted them to a fatality involving their vehicle or equipment to NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting (EWR) database. NHTSA is then required to automatically make those documents public unless they are exempted from public disclosure under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). Presently, these documents are only provided to NHTSA if the agency requests them, and they are not made public unless they are requested under FOIA;
· Requires NHTSA to consider EWR information when it is investigating potential safety defects and when it is evaluating citizen petitions for automobile safety standards or enforcement actions;
· Requires NHTSA to upgrade its online databases to improve searchability, integrate its different databases so they can all be searched at once, and ensure that all documents obtained or created by NHTSA related to a safety incident are both made publicly available and keyword searchable in its databases; and
· Requires NHTSA to provide public, searchable notices of all inspection and investigation activities it undertakes.”
Congressional gridlock probably makes this noble effort unlikely in this Congress.
So what are endangered Americans to do now? Persist. As reporters, consumers, and voters, Americans need to inform themselves and act to protect ourselves. Keep asking the tough questions. Keep on communicating. Keep on litigating, lobbying, and demanding safety and justice.
Crash victims are right. GM and NHTSA are both wrong and not providing the American people the protection they deserve.
An excellent Bloomberg News article using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) uncovers more evidence of failures to protect Americans by GM and NHTSA.“More than seven years before General Motors began the biggest wave of auto recalls in history, an investigator for Vanguard Car Rental USA contacted the carmaker about a fatal rollover crash in California.
A driver in a new Chevrolet Cobalt rented from Vanguard’s Alamo unit lost control on a warm, dry and clear day in September 2006. Traffic had been light, according to the police report. The sedan drifted across lanes, got caught in a gravel median and rolled over. The seat belt was buckled. The air bag didn’t deploy. The driver was killed.
A Vanguard claims adjuster wrote to GM and said even though the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known, “due to the serious nature of this accident we feel that it is imperative that you open a claim and inspect this vehicle for possible defects,” according to a review of documents obtained by Bloomberg News after a Freedom of Information Act request….”
“The files obtained are among scores exchanged between GM and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over an eight-year period beginning in 2005 related to cars stalling and air bags not deploying in crashes. In the files GM submitted, there were 30 crashes involving 37 fatalities in the Cobalt and the Saturn Ion. The victims’ names were redacted.
The documents add to the evidence that GM for at least a decade failed to promptly resolve a wave of complaints from rental-car companies, consumers, automotive reviewers and even its own dealers and mechanics about abnormal crashes that have since been linked to a faulty ignition switch.
The files show many missed opportunities to ask questions and connect disparate events — the very type of evidence that is supposed to be routed to and vetted by the government’s Early Warning Reporting system for potential automotive defects….”
GM ordered recalls early this year for the Cobalt, Ion and four other U.S. models. The automaker has since said that those cars — about 2.6 million of them — may have had faulty ignition switches that when bumped could shut off engines while driving and disable air bags.
By the end of June, the number of cars in North America that GM had called back for repairs related to the ignitions had passed 16 million, more than the 9.71 million vehicles the Detroit-based company sold worldwide in 2013.
The role of rental cars in the GM ignition-switch controversy hasn’t been fully examined. Rental cars tend to be driven a lot of miles. They’re used by different drivers all the time, many of whom are unfamiliar with the vehicle. That can be the difference in surviving and perishing in an emergency situation, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Washington-based research group Center for Auto Safety.
“The Cobalt was a popular, cheap model for rental-car companies,” Ditlow said. “This highlights why they should be vigilant about handling recalls….”
“NHTSA also has been under scrutiny for missing signs of the broader ignition-switch failures and passing on opening a formal defect investigation in 2007 and again in 2010. The U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general, Calvin Scovel, is reviewing the agency’s actions. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he asked for the review after questions raised by members of Congress, the public and the media.”
Missing from the picture, so far, are the GM and industry related people in positions of power in and over NHTSA since 2001. Imagine criminal investigators ignoring people who had the means, motives, and opportunities to contribute to the failures of NHTSA and GM to protect American lives for a decade. A partial list of people in positions of influence is at http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/CFCV-MonthlyReport-March2014-2%20.pdf
With more excellent digging and reporting, hopefully the nation will get closer to the underlying reasons NHTSA has been “driving under the influence” for so long.
Here’s a little hope offered by NHTSA — 30 years after its corporate captivity accelerated under Ronald Reagan.
“One Ms. Marianne Karth of the Truck Safety Coalition and 11,000 signatories have succeeded where the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – with all its fancy-pants testing – and the Canadians – with their much tougher standard – had failed, persuading the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to initiate a rulemaking to upgrade the rear underride standard.
Earlier this month, the agency published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it would issue two separate notices – an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on rear impact
guards and other safety strategies for single-unit trucks, and an NPRM on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. Apparently, it was a May 5 meeting between the Coalition and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx that turned the tide. The advocacy group presented their signatures and made the case that amendments to FMVSS No. 223, Rear Impact Guards, and FMVSS No. 224, Rear Impact Protection were long overdue.”
Bear in mind that an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) has little legal significance more than a Press Release. And an NPRM has often either gone nowhere or was later watered down to be largely ineffective.