Regional Recalls and Early Warning Failures Questioned by U.S. Senators Markey and Blumenthal


Regional Recalls and Early Warning Failures Questioned by U.S. Senators Markey and Blumenthal

October, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact: Eben Burnham-Snyder (Markey) 202-224-2742

 

Senators quiz NHTSA on Takata’s deadly exploding airbags, wrongheaded regional recalls, public reporting system non-compliance

 

WASHINGTON (October 15, 2014) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today expressed strong concern to America’s auto safety regulators that a regional vehicle recall system that sometimes only applies to certain parts of the country is risking the safety of drivers everywhere. The Senators use the example of the exploding airbags made by Takata and installed in many manufacturers’ vehicles that have been injuring and killing drivers and passengers since 2004 as an example of this patchwork recall system that risks the lives of American families.

 

Senators Markey and Blumenthal also said that the Early Warning Reporting (EWR) system employed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may not be fully complied with by auto manufacturers. The Senators revealed that Honda had apparently failed to comply with the EWR system by not submitting complete quarterly reports about accidents that may be due to a safety defect, with one example of a publically-known 2009 death of an Oklahoma teenager where an airbag exploded having gone unreported in the EWR system, according to an analysis done by the Center for Auto Safety and shared with Senator Markey’s staff.

 

The two Senators today wrote David Friedman, the Acting Administrator for NHTSA, to ask him about the efficacy of the regional recall regime and compliance with the EWR system. That letter can be found HERE.

 

“Regional recalls that treat cars and trucks like they never leave their home makes no sense as a policy to protect American families,” writes Senators Markey and Blumenthal. “We believe that this practice risks the safety of those whose cars may not be registered in the states in which the recalls occur. This is because even if the vehicles are not actually registered in the particular states subject to the regional recall, they may nevertheless be driven there.”

 

About the potential noncompliance with the EWR system and Honda’s failure to report incidents, they write, “We are concerned that NHTSA has not made real efforts to determine whether automakers have complied with this requirement to alert the public to potentially deadly defects.”

 

The Takata airbags that have exploded in Honda vehicles have been the subject of various recalls and service campaigns, but the application of those recalls has been haphazard because of the largely regional nature of the recalls and voluntary nature of the service campaigns.

 

For example, on June 11, 2014, Takata told NHTSA that it would conduct a service campaign to repair airbags in “Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands, based on the high levels of absolute humidity in those areas.”  As the two Senators note in their letter, there is no indication how levels of humidity are documented, and why other areas of the country that also have high humidity were not included as part of the service campaign. The Senators cite several other examples of these geographic recalls that could leave consumers exposed to danger.

 

In July, Senators Markey and Blumenthal wrote to NHTSA [LINK] expressing their concerns that NHTSA was not enforcing compliance with the EWR system. In a previously-unreleased responsefrom, the agency says that “it is not possible to verify the accuracy of each piece of information submitted in early warning reporting” and that NHTSA enforces compliance “as appropriate”. In their response, NHTSA noted only two examples of such enforcement efforts – one in 2007, against motorcycle manufacturer Piaggio Group Americas, Inc., and a request for information sent to Ferrari that followed a letter sent by the two Senators pointing out that Ferrari had never submitted a single EWR report.

 

In March, following the recall of more than a million GM vehicles after dozens of deaths and injuries, Senators Markey and Blumenthal introduced legislation to ensure auto manufacturers provide more information about incidents involving fatalities to NHTSA. The legislation, the Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act, would require 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.

 

Safety Advocates Write President Obama on Next NHTSA Administrator


Safety Advocates Write President Obama on Next NHTSA Administrator

October, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

A group of Auto Safety Advocates who have worked to successfully save lives of Americans for decades have written to President Obama.“In addition to deep-seated and systemic problems with this Agency’s oversight of the auto industry, there are numerous safety regulations that languish despite clear statutory deadlines. Public safety is delayed and denied when the Agency fails to issue safety standards for motor vehicle, motorcoach and truck safety that have been required by Congress. For these reasons, we urge you to select an individual who has extensive knowledge of the regulatory process, will not be timid in using NHTSA’s legal authority to enforce the law, understands the urgency of making improvements and will restore public confidence.”

For list of NHTSA Overdue & At-Risk Safety Regulations see attachment to recent Congressional testimony by Jacqueline Gillan.

Think of the enormity of the crash losses each day in the U.S.A.:

* Nearly 100 people dying of crash injuries

* Nearly 400 serious crash inuries
* Societal costs of more than $2 Billion.
Then think of how many times President Obama has invited safety leaders to the White House to help address auto safety.  Nader? Congressional safety leaders such as Senators Markey, Blumenthal, McCaskill, Nelson…?  The signers of this letter to the President?
We really can, and must, do better, Mr. President.  Select a proven, qualified, and committed auto safety person to be the next NHTSA Administrator – please.
Lou

 

Senators Blumenthal and Markey Call for Nationwide Recall of Vehicles with Defective Air Bags


Senators Blumenthal and Markey Call for Nationwide Recall of Vehicles with Defective Air Bags

October, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Safety leadership the American people need and deserve is expressed in the Press Release below:

 

For Immediate Release:

October 23, 2014

Contact: Josh Zembik (Blumenthal) – 202-224-6452Josh_Zembik@blumenthal.senate.gov Eben Burnham-Snyder (Markey) – 202-224-2742

Eben_BS@markey.senate.gov

 

BLUMENTHAL, MARKEY CALL ON NHTSA TO ISSUE NATIONWIDE SAFETY RECALL FOR ALL CARS WITH POTENTIALLY-DEFECTIVE TAKATA AIRBAGS

Senators Also Question NHTSA Guidance For Drivers To Disable Passenger-Side Airbags

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to provide clearer guidance to drivers with potentially-defective Takata airbags, and to urge NHTSA to issue immediately a nationwide recall on all affected cars, regardless of where the vehicle is registered. Blumenthal and Markey also called on manufacturers to provide rental cars at no cost to consumers if vehicles cannot be fixed immediately due to lack of replacement parts.

 

The senators wrote:

 

“We are alarmed and astonished that NHTSA has endorsed a policy recently announced by Toyota and GM that dealers should disable passenger-side airbags and instruct against permitting passengers in the front seat if replacement parts for these airbags are unavailable. As a matter of policy, this step is extraordinarily troubling and potentially dangerous. As a matter of law, as you are aware, §30122(b) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C.) prohibits a manufacturer from knowingly making a safety device inoperative unless the Secretary issues a specific exemption. We are unaware of an exemption from your office in the case of Takata airbags. We are also unaware of any risk assessment or other analysis conducted by NHTSA or automobile manufacturers showing that more lives would be saved than lost by disabling these air bags. Lastly, we are unaware of any information distinguishing the safety threats posed by the passenger-side airbags from the driver-side airbags. If the airbag is too dangerous for passengers, how can the very same airbag installed on the driver-side be sufficiently safe for drivers?”

 

Full text of the letter is below, and a pdf copy is at this link.

 

 

October 23, 2014

 

The Honorable Anthony Foxx

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave, SE

Washington, DC 20590

 

Dear Secretary Foxx:

 

            We write to urge you to provide clear guidance regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) October 21stConsumer Advisory about potentially defective Takata airbags. Almost eight million vehicles across ten different manufacturers have been subjected to recalls or service campaigns  due to airbag explosions during deployment that have caused metal shrapnel to harm or kill drivers or passengers.  

 

We believe that NHTSA should immediately issue a nation-wide safety recall on all the affected cars, regardless of where the car is registered. In addition, your office should strongly encourage manufacturers to provide rental cars at no cost to consumers if their cars cannot be fixed immediately because of insufficient replacement parts.

 

We are sure you agree that the first priority for both NHTSA and the manufacturers of cars with defective Takata airbags must be to protect the safety of all drivers and their families. We have become increasingly troubled and alarmed by the confusing and conflicting advice being issued by NHTSA, and the glacial pace of the agency’s response to this public safety threat. Whether a vehicle model qualifies for a recall or is simply part of a service campaign has differed inconsistently across manufacturers, geographic regions and the type of airbag in question. We have detailed these concerns in an October 15th letter to Acting Administrator Friedman, and we look forward to his response.

 

We are alarmed and astonished that NHTSA has endorsed a policy recently announced by Toyota and GM that dealers should disable passenger-side airbags and instruct against permitting passengers in the front seat if replacement parts for these airbags are unavailable. As a matter of policy, this step is extraordinarily troubling and potentially dangerous. As a matter of law, as you are aware, §30122(b) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C.) prohibits a manufacturer from knowingly making a safety device inoperative unless the Secretary issues a specific exemption. We are unaware of an exemption from your office in the case of Takata airbags. We are also unaware of any risk assessment or other analysis conducted by NHTSA or automobile manufacturers showing that more lives would be saved than lost by disabling these air bags. Lastly, we are unaware of any information distinguishing the safety threats posed by the passenger-side airbags from the driver-side airbags. If the airbag is too dangerous for passengers, how can the very same airbag installed on the driver-side be sufficiently safe for drivers? If analyses that support this policy have been conducted, or your office has issued an exemption or exemptions to Toyota or GM, please provide our offices with copies and any relevant additional materials. 

 

We are also concerned by the absence of clear guidance from NHTSA on how and when to get vehicles fixed and what to do in the meantime. In its October 21st Consumer Advisory, NHTSA urges drivers of affected vehicles (most of which are limited to those that were purchased or registered in ‘humid’ States) to get their cars serviced immediately, but stopped short of issuing a nation-wide safety recall. The information available to us indicates no factual basis for distinguishing between states or regions of the country regarding the potential severe danger of this defect to motorists. All states experience seasons of heat and humidity. Many drivers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and other northeastern states spend time in more humid southern states. Replacement parts are, “essential to personal safety,” for all drivers whether they live in New England or Florida, and NHTSA should immediately issue a nation-wide recall that protects all drivers. Equally important, all drivers deserve access to loaners or rental cars at no cost to them while they await repairs to their cars that make them safe enough to drive again.

 

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this important matter. We look forward to your responses and guidance to the issues raised above. If you have questions or concerns, please have your staff contact Joel Kelsey (Senator Blumenthal, 224-2823) or Michal Freedhoff (Senator Markey, 224-2742).

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

___________________________                                ___________________________

Richard Blumenthal                                                         Edward J. Markey

United States Senator                                                      United States Senator    

 

Crash Rescue Delayed 19 Hours – OnStar Mistakes, Police Use Apple iPhone To Find Woman


Crash Rescue Delayed 19 Hours – OnStar Mistakes, Police Use Apple iPhone To Find Woman

October, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Here’s a disturbing, intriguing, and inspiring story of a rescue that involved a Coast guard helicopter rescue of a woman involved in a rollover crash into a ravine.  Watch videos of the story at

I retired from NHTSA in 2007 to advance such Automatic Crash Notification (ACN) technologies because the agency was not doing its job advancing the technology.  I did not know at the time that GM was controlling NHTSA to prevent government involvement in this life saving technology.  It still is.
And the life saving potential is still great.  Government can work to save lives when it is freed from corporate captivity.
Lou

 

The GM OnStar Failure in California Illustrates Need for Regulation


The GM OnStar Failure in California Illustrates Need for Regulation

October, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article on the rollover crash of a GM OnStar vehicle that failed to provide reliable location information to enable timely rescue.  Rescue was delayed for 19 hours after the crash before the driver was found and transported to an emergency medical facility for care.  Thankfully, due primarily to excellent work by police and rescue workers, the driver has survived.  See http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Wrong-car-crash-location-spurs-OnStar-probe-5825410.php?cmpid=twitter-desktop

The article noted: “Clarence Ditlow, who directs the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, D.C., said the government should regulate safety features like OnStar.”  Ditlow, a lawyer and engineer who has fought for auto safety for decades, is right.  Without a Federal regulation requiring minimum performance standards for Automatic Crash Notification, a potentially significant safety technology, the public is not being adequately protected.

The lady saved in this crash is fortunate to have been rescued.  How many Americans know that every year more than half the crash deaths are not taken to any medical facility for emergency treatment?   Nearly 50 Americans every day.  See http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/2012-00872-FATALITIES.PDF

This crash demonstrates the technology is available to do much better – but the technology has been privatized without having to meet any minimum public health protection performance standards.  So it does not have to work to protect people – just short term profits.
This crash is an example of the failure of Federal safety officials to carry out their duties to protect people since 2000.
Last year I petitioned NHTSA to:
Recommend a National Goal for Timely and Optimal Treatment of Serious Crash Injuries within a decade.

Still waiting for a response from the captive agency as about 18,000 Americans die of crash injuries each year without transport to any facility for any level of emergency medical care. 
Lou

 

Can We Hope President Obama Will Change for the Better?


Can We Hope President Obama Will Change for the Better?

October, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
President Obama is faced with two decisions on positions to fill.   NHTSA Administrator and Attorney General are two positions that will have an impact on auto safety.  For better or worse.  Who he picks may make a difference in whether history views his record as protector of the people or protector of big money.

The current Bill Moyers Show “Too Big To Jail?” explored this question with regard to the banks and bankers.  Watch it for an understanding of what has been happening.  Hopefully it is not a portent of what we can expect with regard to justice for past, present, and future, crash victims.   The program summary notes:

“Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation last week reminds us of an infuriating fact: No banking executives have been criminally prosecuted for their role in causing the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression.

“I blame Holder. I blame Timothy Geithner,” veteran bank regulator William K. Black tells Bill this week. “But they are fulfilling administration policies. The problem definitely comes from the top. And remember, Obama wouldn’t have been president but for the financial contribution of bankers.”

And the rub? While large banks have been penalized for their role in the housing meltdown, the costs of those fines will be largely borne by shareholders and taxpayers as the banks write off the fines as the cost of doing business. And by and large these top executives got to keep their massive bonuses and compensation, despite the fallout.”

See it at http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-big-jail/?utm_source=General+Interest&utm_campaign=efe9fcb924-Midweek_0903149_3_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4ebbe6839f-efe9fcb924-168341797

One sad take away is that President Obama may very well be responsible – in more ways than previously recognized – for NHTSA’s failures to protect Americans from crash deaths and serious injuries.

His coming appointments will provide perhaps his last chance to remedy his current record.  In his eight years, the nation is on track to woefully record 250,000 crash deaths – more than twice the number of Americans who died in the Afghanistan, Iraq, Viet Nam and Korean Wars combined.  See http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/MonthlyReportforAugust2014.pdf

Lou