Treasury’s Halloween Trick on GM Crash Victims

Treasury’s Halloween Trick on GM Crash Victims

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

How high up does the corporate captivity of the Federal Government go?

“The U.S. Treasury says confidential information it got in the bailout of General Motors Co. (GM)should stay secret, otherwise at-risk companies needing government help in the future might not be willing to share data.

The Center for Auto Safety, now researching GM’s ignition-switch defects, sued in 2011 for information the government obtained before investing $49.5 billion in the automaker. It got more than 50,000 documents and wants additional records on the U.S. role in a judge’s ban on lawsuits over older GM cars. The Treasury asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit…. 

Still, highlighting the risks, the Treasury’s bailout fund lost $11.2 billion on its investment by December when it sold its remaining shares in the new GM, according to a May government report.

Clarence Ditlow, president of the Washington-based auto safety center, said GM came to the U.S. “hat in hand” and was forced as a condition of getting money to produce the information that he is now seeking. Others will do the same, he said yesterday in an e-mail.

“Disclosure of information will not deter corporations begging for billions in taxpayer dollars from seeking bailout funds in the future,” he said.”


Treasury to America:  No you cannot see what the Federal government knew and when it knew it when we gave billions of your dollars to GM.  

The bailout was necessary, but making the details public is also necessary.



Airbag Tragic Mess, NHTSA Tragic Mess

Airbag Tragic Mess, NHTSA Tragic Mess

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The Automotive News published an excellent article (and related articles) on these two tragic messes.

“For the second time this year, a long-standing defect linked to deaths and injuries has triggered a mushrooming auto-safety crisis, lending more fuel to criticism that federal regulators haven’t done enough to protect consumers from such dangers.

Ten automakers have issued recalls for millions of airbags that, rather than save drivers and passengers in a crash, can explode with a lethal spray of jagged metal.

The flaw is connected to two deaths in what were otherwise fender benders, and two others may be related; just this month, a Florida woman died with such unexpectedly severe gashes in her neck after a crash that police reportedly suspected homicide — until a recall notice for the vehicle arrived the following week.

Perhaps most unnerving to consumers, the problem doesn’t yet appear to be contained. On Wednesday, Oct. 22, two automakers told Automotive News that they couldn’t say for sure whether all of the bad airbags had been identified….After watching the agency she ran in the 1970s stagger last week, former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook put it bluntly: “I think they’re having a meltdown.”…. “I am flummoxed by this,” Claybrook said, dismissing the regional tack as a cost-saving maneuver. “This is not a regulatory agency; it’s an auto industry booster agency.””


The tragic truth continues to emerge.   The Obama Administration’s feckless failures to protect Americans continues to produce tragedies.  Shameful, willful, repeated inaction and actions putting and keeping corporate servants in positions of power and influence over people’s lives.  Not what the American people voted for but what corporate lobbyists pay for.  Picture the $4 billion to influence just this year’s election.  



Takata’s Tragic Airbag Mess – A Suggestion for A Safer Future

Takata’s Tragic Airbag Mess – A Suggestion for A Safer Future

November, 2014

Dear care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Takata’s Tragic Airbag Mess

Takata is going through a deservedly terrible time facing mounting financial losses and calls for Federal criminal investigation of tragic mismanagement decisions.  See excellent coverage at
Suggestions For A Safer Future

I would like to offer a silver lining of hope for positive changes for safety that may result from this tragic current reality.  With first hand knowledge, I can say that Takata has excellent scientists and engineers of integrity that can, and are needed to, advance safety with airbag technologies in and outside of automobiles.  For examples, think pedestrian protection outside autos and child protection inside autos.

A recent NY Times series of articles on falls among the elderly reminded me of a long gone pioneering leader in the development of airbags – Dr. Carl C. Clark that I had the privilege to work with at NHTSA.

The NY Times reported on CDC statistics as follows:“The dangers are real. The number of people over 65 who died after a fall reached nearly 24,000 in 2012, the most recent year for which fatality numbers are available — almost double the number 10 years earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And more than 2.4 million people over 65 were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls in 2012 alone, an increase of 50 percent over a decade. All told, in the decade from 2002-2012, more than 200,000 Americans over 65 died after falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in that age group.”


I would add that an aging population is not just a problem in the U.S. but in Japan and other places around the world.

Eighteen years ago, and perhaps 300,000 American fall deaths of people over the age of 65 in the U.S. alone, the Baltimore Sun wrote an article about Dr. Clark’s prescient work.  

“As his grandchildren’s laughter filters through the screen door, Carl Clark talks about his commitment to cushioning life’s blows. Retired from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 73-year-old scientist is still advocating interior air bags for airplanes, trains and school buses. He’s promoting ,, exterior air bags that spring from auto bumpers. He’s even invented a wearable air bag that inflates to prevent broken hips in the elderly.

Clark has spent 35 years urging the use of air bags — a concept he helped develop in 1961. Now, faced by widespread alarm over air bag-caused deaths, his biggest fear is that people will disconnect the devices he’s worked so hard to give them.”

A Safer Future Is Ahead – But Why Does it Take So Long?
I have worked for many years with good scientists and engineers.  I have also seen too many bad management decisions in both corporations and government agencies that have caused too much needless death and injury to the public.  
Ralph Nader, in his new book “Unstoppable” recommends 25 Reforms.  One is that we “Allow taxpayers the standing to sue, especially immunized governments and corporations.”
Then maybe it would not take so long to save lives and prevent tragedies for people and organizations – and we would create a Safer Future sooner.


Takata, & Honda Airbag Scandals & NHTSA Scandal

Takata & Honda Airbag Scandals & NHTSA Scandal

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Obama Investigating NHTSA

On October 24, 2014, USA Today reported:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Obama administration official says the “safety culture” of the federal agency that oversees auto recalls is being reviewed.

The agency has been criticized for not acting aggressively enough regarding recalls of millions of vehicles with defective air bags or faulty ignition switches.

The Obama official says a team is examining risk management and the safety posture in general at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”  See

And See October 2014 NHTSA Organization Chart attached.

Criminal Investigation SoughtOn Nov. 7, 2014 the NY Times reported:

“Three senators are calling for a criminal investigation of the airbag maker Takata after two former employees reported that it had carried out tests on airbags over a decade ago and found signs of defects, yet erased computer files containing data and threw away tested airbags.

“The Justice Department needs to get involved here and begin a criminal investigation,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said in an interview. His comments came in response to an article in The New York Times on Friday that reported the employees’ disclosure….

The safety agency has been under pressure from lawmakers to order automakers to expand recent airbag recalls, some of which have been limited to regions with high humidity because Takata says moisture could play a role in the defect. But in the face of continued uncertainty over the cause of the ruptures, lawmakers have called for nationwide recalls.

In a partial response to those requests, Honda said on Thursday that it would now formally recall cars that the automaker had previously included in what it calls “safety improvement campaigns.” Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman, said that testing of some of the passenger airbag inflaters it had retrieved from dealers in areas with high humidity showed enough risks to warrant a formal recall.

Safety regulators have already referred to those campaigns as recalls, however, making Honda’s announcement largely moot. The automaker is still limiting the United States recall to 13 states and territories that it says “consistently experience high absolute humidity.”

Cars affected include certain model year 2001-6 Honda and Acura vehicles sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa, according to Honda.” 


Note: DC, MD, and VA are not yet included by Honda.

Grand Jury Investigation

On Nov. 13, 2014, USA Today reported:“A new death has been linked to Hondas with defective Takata airbags, and Takata says it’s under investigation by a U.S. grand jury..

Honda said Thursday it is expanding its Takata-related recalls after a driver in Malaysia died in an air bag-linked accident in July.

The latest Honda/Takata fatality brings to five the number of deaths possibly caused by faulty Takata bags. Honda says three definitely are linked, and is probing two others.

Takata confirmed in Tokyo Thursday that it is being investigated in the U.S. for possible criminal activities.

A federal grand jury in New York has subpoenaed Takata’s unit in the United States to produce documents on the air bag defects, a Tokyo-based Takata spokesman said.”  See

Takata Executive Rehired On Nov. 15, 2014, Automotive News reported:

“DETROIT — This past summer, Takata Corp. rehired a retired engineering executive to oversee its embattled quality-control operation — an executive who is now at the center of a fresh controversy involving the company’s disclosures about its defective airbags.

Al Bernat, Takata’s former vice president of engineering who retired in 2012, returned as a full-time employee in July and is now senior vice president of quality assurance.

“We brought him out of retirement,” company spokesman Alby Berman said this week, “although he was doing some consulting with us even in retirement.”

Bernat’s return came shortly after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced June 11 that it would reopen its investigation into malfunctioning airbags in vehicles produced by Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Chrysler and Toyota.”  See

Hopefully some good will come from these investigations of all this tragic mismanagement in government and corporations.


Pressure Builds on NHTSA and NHTSA Issues Special Order to Honda

Pressure Builds on NHTSA and NHTSA Issues Special Order to Honda

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
Pressure Builds on NHTSA

The Des Moines Register Editors wrote:

“For 10 months, NHTSA has operated without a full-time director. David Strickland, the last man to hold the job, left the agency to work for a law firm that represents Chrysler. Three of his predecessors at NHTSA followed that same path to auto industry defender.

The Obama administration needs to get in gear and name a new director who has a strong background in consumer advocacy and who doesn’t see the job as a mere stepping stone to a more lucrative job in Detroit.”  See

On October 15, 2014, the Center for Auto Safety petitioned NHTSA to refer the Honda airbag problem to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.  See attached and

Today, NHTSA issued a Special Order to Honda to answer questions under oath.  See attached NHTSA documents:

Signs of hope for change — for the better.


U.S. Senators Call on President Obama to Nominate New NHTSA Administrator for Safety Reform

U.S. Senators Call on President Obama to Nominate New NHTSA Administrator for Safety Reform

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Please see Press Release and Letter to President Obama that follows:



Contact: Giselle Barry (Markey) 202-224-2742

Josh Zembik (Blumenthal) 202-224-6452

Ryan Brown (Nelson) (202) 224-1679


Senators Markey, Blumenthal & Nelson Call On Obama To Consider Safety Reform and Priorities When Nominating New NHTSA Administrator


Washington, D.C. (November 12, 2014) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today sent a letter urging President Obama to review and reform the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) safety mission when nominating its new Administrator. In the letter, the Senators urge President Obama to encourage and empower the new NHTSA administrator to take five key steps to improve public confidence in NHTSA: 1) improve transparency, 2) curtail regional recalls, 3) take dangerous cars off the road, 4) end voluntary service campaigns for safety defects, and 5) ensure sufficient resources for the agency. The Senators highlighted the recent Takata airbag recall, the GM ignition switch recall and the urgent need to reform NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting (EWR) system.


“We believe this is an opportunity to improve NHTSA’s safety mission by providing the agency with strong leadership and reforming some of its practices,” write the Senators in the letter to President Obama. “NHTSA must alter its practices to require automakers to publicly release more information about accidents that could be caused by safety defects, upgrade its own safety databases, and do a better job of enforcing compliance with transparency measures intended to provide early warnings about potentially dangerous defects to the public.”


A copy of the letter to President Obama can be found HERE.   


This month, Senators Blumenthal and Markey called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation of Takata. And in October, Markey and Blumenthal sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx urging NHTSA to provide clearer guidance to drivers with potentially defective Takata airbags, and to urge NHTSA to issue an immediate nationwide recall on all-affected cars. Earlier last month, Blumenthal and Markey also called on David Friedman, the Acting Administrator for NHTSA, about NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting system and the efficacy of the regional recalls.


In March, following the recall of more than a million GM vehicles after dozens of deaths and injuries, Senators Markey and Blumenthal introduced legislationto 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.



Here’s hope for a Safer America.