Trust NHTSA and Corporations or Not?


Trust NHTSA and Corporations or Not?

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:  

Two informative articles provide perspectives people concerned with crash victims should know about.   The first, in WardsAuto, argues that if Congress increases information disclosure requirements on auto companies, corporations would not be protected from monetary losses.  Seehttp://wardsauto.com/industry-voices/public-disclosure-industry-data-could-hamper-not-help-vehicle-safety

The second, in Automotive News, describes NHTSA performance in defending its failures to protect Americans from losses of life and livelihoods for a decade.  Seehttp://www.autonews.com/article/20140922/OEM11/309229959/now-its-nhtsa-under-fire#

Information on proposed legislation is at http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/blog-schakowsky.php

 


Truck Anti Safety Bill Introduced in Congress by Rep. Barletta

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Shame!  

“A member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has introduced legislation (H.R. 5532) that would order the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to stop publishing individual motor carriers’ scores under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program until the agency has improved the data, according to a plan it would submit to Congress. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), also would prevent scores under CSA and the Safety Measurement System that underlies it from being used in crash liability cases.”  See

http://fleetowner.com/regulations/house-bill-would-block-csa-scores-public NHTSA data on crash fatalities in Rep. Barletta’s district shows that each year since 2002 about 2 fatalities occur in an average week — about 100 per year.  See my crash death mapping tool for each Congressional district for fatalities over the past decade athttp://www.arcgis.com/explorer/?open=ed97b17427b74b2e87ab925d55eb1313&extent=-20659591.7409969,875765.608846319,-3093254.85263374,8576895.45964956  

If  Pennsylvania constituents only knew….

Lou

 

“Total Failure on Auto Safety” & Preponderance of Evidence of NHTSA Captivity


“Total Failure on Auto Safety” & Preponderance of Evidence of NHTSA Captivity

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
NHTSA’s Total Auto Safety Failure To Protect
After the September 16, 2014 Senate Hearings on NHTSA, the NY Times published a good editorial headlined “Total Failure on Auto Safety”.  The Times noted:  “The agency also did not connect the dots between consumer complaints, service bulletins G.M. sent to its dealers about the ignition switch and reports of accidents in which air bags didn’t deploy.” See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/opinion/avoiding-the-next-auto-safety-failure.html

The NY Times has been doing excellent reporting on NHTSA failures to protect Americans — so much so I think a Pulitzer Prize should be considered.   Unfortunately, this NY Times editorial did not address GM and industry capture of NHTSA.  More is needed to be done to prevent additional needless deaths and serious injuries — more dots need to be connected.

NHTSA – Industry Lapdog

USA Today’s editorial not only mentioned NHTSA’s captivity but also concluded NHTSA was not a watch dog but a lapdog.  USA Today gave due credit to the NY Times reporting, carried a companion, well documented, Op Ed by Ralph Nader, and provided for public comments.  Seehttp://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/17/ralph-nader-safety-nhtsa-investigation-regulation-congress-gm-stalled-column/15801047/

The NY Times has been keeping an excellent and improving timeline of the GM scandal of deaths and who knew what, when.  The public needs to see more of these dots connected.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/business/senate-hearing-on-nhtsa-and-recalls.html  
Investigative reports still need is an interactive graphic showing a time lapse “chess board” of people who have gone through the DOT NHTSA “Revolving Door” to and from industry – and the powerful positions they hold and held that provide a “preponderance of evidence” of NHTSA captivity.
NHTSA Culture of Captivity, Coverupand Collusion
NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman used the term “preponderance of evidence” – the lack thereof in his view — to defend NHTSA inactions since 2001.  Friedman assured that action would be taken when there was a “preponderance of evidence” in his judgement — not the public’s judgement.  As for public availability of NHTSA information, Mr. Friedman said some of it was available at the NHTSA Public Reading Room.  (So are interested owners of as yet unfixed defective vehicles to drive to D.C.?) On the same day, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce issued its Staff Report “Review of NHTSA” (copy attached).  In it on pages 2 and 3, the Committee describes its interviews of NHTSA investigators.  Repeatedly, these NHTSA investigators told the Committee that they “did not recall” details or conversations regarding the GM switch crash deaths.  Is it not a crime to mislead Congress?
A long time safety researcher, Mr. Tom Kowalick, sent a Report to ranking member Henry Waxman on the GM Recall issues.  He sent a  very serious and substantive report (copy attached).  He included political cartoons on the subject to illustrate public interest in the subject.  On page 10, there is a cartoon showing GM being questioned on its decade of failures to recall deadly vehicles.  To each question the answer given was “We don’t recall.”
Faulty memories of life or death issues have been found by the NY Times at the highest levels of GM.  The current Chairman of the Board of GM, who was on the Board in September of 2013 when the company settled a major ignition switch law suit on a fatal crash, was interviewed by the NY Times:  In February, the initial recall of hundreds of thousands of cars with defective ignition switches was treated in such a routine manner at the board’s monthly meeting that the board’s chairman, Theodore M. Solso, said he had only a vague recollection of the details.

“I can’t remember the specifics,” Mr. Solso said in an interview. “It was a large recall. There were probably cost estimates.””

I wonder when he said “probably cost estimates” whether he was thinking of monetary costs to the corporation or costs of customer lives lost.
We can and must do better protecting people.  Preventing crash deaths and serious injuries is in the long term interests of the public, customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders.
Lou

 

NY Times Investigating NHTSA’s Failures to Protect Americans


NY Times Investigating NHTSA’s Failures to Protect Americans

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Another excellent article on NHTSA’s failures to protect Americans has been published.“An investigation by The New York Times into the agency’s handling of major safety defects over the past decade found that it frequently has been slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies.”

See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/15/business/regulator-slow-to-respond-to-deadly-vehicle-defects.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=LedeSum&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Lou

 

3 Views of the NHTSA Record


3 Views of the NHTSA Record

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

1. Current NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman:“When automakers have failed to recall vehicles quickly, NHTSA has repeatedly issued the maximum fines allowed by law — more than $140 million in five years.”  Seehttp://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/16/david-friedman-national-highway-traffic-safety-administration-editorials-debates/15745881/

2.  USA Today Editorial Board:GM withheld key information from regulators. It settled cases secretly, ignored actions by its own employees and left dangerous cars on the road for a decade. But when companies act so deplorably, safety watchdogs are needed most. Whether because of corruption, capture by the industry or just plain cluelessness, NHTSA failed.

Congress wants to beef up the agency’s powers and open more data to the public. OK. But an empowered lapdog is still a lapdog. What’s needed is leadership that changes the agency’s ways.”  See

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/16/gm-ignition-switch-recall-auto-safety-nhtsa-editorials-debates/15745713/

3. Ralph Nader:

“Today, NHTSA operates more as a consultant to the auto companies as executives pass back and forth between regulatory agency and regulated business as if they were merely divisions of the same firm. NHTSA holds secret meetings with auto companies. The agency has not ordered a manufacturer to recall its defective vehicles for 35 years.

NHTSA needs to end its criminally negligent “business as usual” relationship with auto companies. Only congressional action fueled by the organized outrage of aggrieved families can change the deadly status quo.”  See

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/17/ralph-nader-safety-nhtsa-investigation-regulation-congress-gm-stalled-column/15801047/

Current Reality:

There is a clear and present danger we face every day – here in the U.S.A.  Crash deaths in the U.S. currently occur at a rate of nearly 100 per day.  Serious crash injuries occur at the rate of nearly 400 per day.  Crash injuries of all severities occur at a rate of about 6,000 per day.  Societal losses from U.S. crash losses amount to more than $2 Billion per day in the U.S.A. 

As I wrote in the July 2014 Monthly Report:

“The GM Recalls come at a time when the nation is celebrating its Declaration of Independence that held “Safety” as a fundamental purpose. During just the expected 8 years of President Obama’s Administration, the nation is on track to record nearly 250,000 crash deaths (more than twice the number of Americans killed in the Afghanistan, Iraq, Korean, and Viet Nam Wars — combined).   Plus 1 million serious crash injuries.   And all crashes are expected to result in $7 Trillion of societal losses in America during these eight years.”

A higher national safety priority is needed to protect Americans from crash force violence that is killing, maiming, and costing enormous U.S. treasure. See   http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/MonthlyReportforAugust2014.pdf

Lou

 

Telematics, Privacy, Safety and Lawyers


Telematics, Privacy, Safety and Lawyers

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members: An excellent article in Automotive News notes increasing interest in telematics data.

The privacy terms for ConnectedDrive’s BMW Assist component says it may “collect and retain an electronic or other record” of a person’s location or direction of travel at a given time — providing another potential legal tool for lawyers to go along with cellphone records, vehicle black boxes and even airbag modules.

That may irk consumers who worry about an all-seeing eye keeping tabs on their travels.

Of course, limited vehicle data can’t stand alone, experts say. The data must be backed by other evidence. But lawyers say they’re interested in using the data to build cases.

“It certainly is an intriguing new thing,” said Don Slavik, a product liability lawyer who has worked on litigation involving Toyota and unintended acceleration.

“It introduces some questions of privacy issues that people aren’t aware of. I wasn’t aware of some of this stuff until recently.”

Slavik said he hasn’t used vehicle telematics data yet, but he may turn to such data in future cases.

He said: “We’ve just learned about the large volume of data going through systems. Not just one or 10 or 20 pieces of data, but thousands of pieces of data that are reported.”

See http://www.autonews.com/article/20140914/OEM11/309159952/lawyers-reaching-for-in-car-data

As I concluded in my July Monthly Report and have written repeatedly:

“Members of Congress can ask NHTSA and GM to make
OnStar safety data publicly available for analysis by NHTSA, insurers, and safety consumer groups.  Vehicle owners own the data that GM collects, but GM controls the use of our data. We the people can obtain such data to better protect ourselves.”
Attached is a Law Review article on the subject.
Maybe now more members of Congress will get involved in making auto safety data publicly available to save lives.  
Lou

 

Vehicle Safety and Improvement Act Introduced by Reps, Waxman and Schakowsky


Vehicle Safety and Improvement Act Introduced by Reps, Waxman and Schakowsky

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Reps. Schakowsky and Waxman Introduce Bill to Improve Motor Vehicle Safety, Respond to Committee’s GM Investigation

Sep 18, 2014

Today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Ranking Member of the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee, and Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, joined by other Democratic Committee members, introduced the Vehicle Safety Improvement Act (VSIA).  This legislation will establish several new important consumer protections to improve driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety.

“The GM ignition switch recall proved that our vehicle safety laws must be strengthened,” said Rep. Schakowsky.  “This bill promotes common-sense steps to improve oversight and public access to information while doing more to hold automakers accountable for their actions – or failure to act.”

”The Vehicle Safety Improvement Act provides a meaningful response to this year’s motor vehicle recalls, which exposed far too many shortcomings in federal oversight of the safety of our roads,” said Rep. Waxman.  “The bill empowers consumers and holds auto manufacturers accountable for illegal behavior that all too often leads to tragedy.”

In an effort to reduce the likelihood of another similar disaster in the future, the Vehicle Safety Improvement Act includes, among its safety-related reforms, provisions addressing factors that contributed to the GM failure. 

The legislation builds on H.R. 4364, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2014, a bill introduced by Ranking Member Waxman in April.  VSIA strengthens transparency and oversight, provides NHTSA with additional and enhanced safety authorities, and establishes several new protections for consumers of motor vehicles.  Among other measures, this bill:

  • Increases the collection and online publication of safety-related information from manufacturers, including communications regarding defective parts and data on fatal incidents;
  • Requires manufacturers to explain why a fatal incident may have occurred and extends from five years to 20 years the time manufacturers must retain records on possible safety defects; and
  • Increases the penalties that could be assessed, for violations of federal motor vehicle safety laws.

Original cosponsors of the bill introduced by Reps. Schakowsky and Waxman include:  Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, and Rep. Paul D. Tonko.

The full text of the bill is available online here.  A bill summary is available online here.