Senate Hearing on NHTSA: Does Money & Power Corrupt & Endanger Us All?

Senate Hearing on NHTSA: Does Money & Power Corrupt & Endanger Us All?

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Who is responsible?

Takata, GM, Jeep, Toyota and other vehicle defects (including defective Trinity guardrails under DOT FHWA responsibility) occurred since the year 2000.  
So since 2000, who have been in positions of power to influence DOT NHTSA auto safety policies and practices?  See
If the DOT NHTSA has been driving under the influence of powerful interests since 2000, is it any wonder that deadly defects occurred and persist to this day?  Millions of defective vehicles are still on U.S. roads endangering us all.
Tests of NHTSA’s Corporate Captivity
*  Why won’t NHTSA simply publish crash fatalities and fatality rates by auto manufacturer each year?  GM alone is involved in about 10,000 crash fatalities each year in the U.S.A.
*  Why won’t NHTSA simply set a national goal to rescue crash victims and get them to definitive emergency medical care within the Golden Hour by 2020?  Within a decade? *  Why won’t NHTSA simply count unborn babies that die with their mothers in crashes?
Money and Secrecy Corrupt Safety & Justice

DETROIT (Bloomberg) — Confidential settlements over defective Takata Corp. airbags are sealing off relevant information that other victims could use to pursue injury claims.

The accords make financial sense for the settling parties, but Takata and other defendants, including Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, get an extra advantage in keeping damaging information out the hands of outsiders interested in suing them.

The quick, secret deals — a cornerstone of product liability litigation across industries — help explain why, years after the first recalls, so much remains unknown about defects linked to four deaths in the U.S. The few cases filed have generally been resolved before victims’ lawyers acquired evidence.  Source:

GM Victim’s “Compensation” Program – Keeping It $hort
GM Feinberg program extended for countless victims by just 1 month.  Automotive News finds victim that GM knew about but the victim did not know about the program.

“”I believe that the many efforts to reach all possible GM automobile owners, former owners and others who might have been adversely impacted by a defective ignition switch have been both comprehensive and effective,” Feinberg’s statement said.

“There will always be some individuals who do not receive formal notice and are generally unaware of available compensation.  But such individuals appear to be very few in number.”

In its statement, GM said: “We agreed with Ken Feinberg’s recommendation to extend the compensation program deadline. Our goal with the program has been to reach every eligible person impacted.”

One of them was Jamie Frei — a 20-year-old Marine when his Chevrolet Cobalt hit a tree north of Philadelphia in December 2006. The airbag failed, and he spent 29 days in a coma before waking up and learning how to walk again.

Page 130

Frei’s name appeared on pages 130 and 131 of the lengthy report detailing GM’s internal investigation into faulty ignition switches on his and 2.6 million other cars, though it was blacked out in the publicly released version of the report. His accident was denoted by a small diamond on a graph prepared for the GM executives who approved a recall in January.

On another page, his injuries were classified as “moderate.”

But Frei says he didn’t know GM had established a compensation fund for people injured or killed in crashes linked to the ignition switches until he was contacted last week by an Automotive News reporter.

“I had no idea,” said Frei, who eventually recovered enough that the military deployed him to Afghanistan. “I haven’t heard from [GM] since 2008.”

That’s when Frei agreed to a settlement with the automaker, court records show. Under the compensation program being administered by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, Frei could be eligible for a much larger amount: $385,000, based on the length of his hospital stay.

Hints last week

Sunday night’s announcement came after Feinberg hinted last week that he is considering extending that deadline and doing more to contact potential victims who haven’t filed a claim, in response to requests last week from lawyer Bob Hilliard and safety advocate Clarence Ditlow. 

Hilliard has submitted numerous claims to Feinberg, whom he described as being fair in decisions returned so far. On Wednesday, Hilliard was hired by the family of Jean Averill, a Connecticut woman whose 2003 death was among the first 13 fatalities that GM linked to the defect. Averill’s family didn’t know of the connection until informed this month by The New York Times, which Hilliard called “stunning,” given that the family has lived on the same fruit farm for 10 generations.

GM said on Friday that it has since contacted Averill’s family, attributing the delay to the fact that the 2004 claim related to her crash had come from an insurance company. Spokesman Jim Cain said GM has worked aggressively to notify owners of the affected cars about the recall and the compensation fund, with the latest round of 5.3 million letters from CEO Mary Barra set to go out this week.

“Extensive effort” 

“It’s been a really extensive effort,” Cain said. “Our goal here is to reach everyone who has a potential claim to invite them to participate.”

Feinberg had received 1,851 claims, including for 202 deaths, and approved 67 of them as of Nov. 7.

GM also turned over its claim files to Feinberg, who has mailed forms as well, but Hilliard said Dec. 31 is too soon to shut people out.

“There’s absolutely no reason not to keep the fund open for another year. It’s just an arbitrary date,” Hilliard said.

“When I see a Cobalt at the gas station, I go up and say ‘Do you know your car’s been recalled?’ and nobody does.”  Source:

Elections have consequences for people, parties, and our future safety.
In this past week’s elections, money (highest ever) and message (or lack thereof) contributed to a shift in control of the Senate from Blue States to Red States.  The people who will die or suffer serious crash injuries are more likely to die in Red States.  (Fatality rates are generally higher in Red States than Blue States based on 2012 data).  See attached State rankings.
So if money can be outweighed by public safety interest and message, then the public interest may be advanced in safety with bipartisan support.  Based on Nader’s thoughts in his new book Unstoppable, neither Republicans, Democrats, nor Independents want to die of crash injuries at the higher rates found in Red States.


Airbag Recalls – Your Chance to Vote at USA Today

Airbag Recalls – Your Chance to Vote at USA Today

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

A great editorial in USA Today gives its readers a chance to agree or disagree.  Readers have a chance to agree with Editors and to disagree with NHTSA (my recommendations).

Care for Crash Victims Community Members have the expertise and knowledge to cast informed votes.  I encourage you to do so here.


This is an important way to let your views be known by many people worldwide.  As it is now many of us are in mortal danger of improper safety management decisions in government and corporations.  Please help build a Safer America.



Automatic Crash Protection (Airbags) On The Road To Achieving Vision Zero

Automatic Crash Protection (Airbags) On The Road To Achieving Vision Zero

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

With all the tragic news about airbag problems, it is important to recall the important role of airbags in saving lives in the past, present, and future.  

A timely publication of Vision Zero brings us bitter sweet news: good news on airbag advances.   And the sad news that Claes Tingvall, the “Father of Vision Zero,” is retiring. Tingvall leaves us with an inspiring farewell.  See it at

The world owes this Star of Safety from Sweden a sincere “Thank you!” for his service that will continue to save lives for years to come.



Airbag Recall, Regional Recalls, & Election Day For Better or Worse Safety

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Airbag Recall Mess

Millions of Americans at risk of death and injury.  NHTSA apologizes.  Federal prosecutors investigating.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s top official apologized late Wednesday for publishing inaccurate information in itsMonday warning about defective Takata airbags that may explode and for technical glitches that made its recall search page unavailable for much of the week.

In a statement, David Friedman, NHTSA’s deputy administrator, also said the agency has “identified the problem” affecting Takata airbags and is making sure cars are recalled in parts of the country “where there is a demonstrated risk.” The agency has recently focused its Takata efforts on high-humidity regions, including U.S. states along the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, the situation by Wednesday had attracted added scrutiny from lawmakers seeking to review the progress of NHTSA’s investigation into Takata, and from federal prosecutors who, according to The Wall Street Journal, are now investigating the Japanese supplier.”  See

Regional Recalls Make No Safety Sense – Just Corporate Sense
Senators Markey and Blumenthal wrote NHTSA that NHTSA’s approval of regional recalls “makes no sense”.

“Last week, Senator Markey and Senator Richard Blumenthal wrote NHTSA about this policy, saying that it “makes no sense” and asked NHTSA to reevaluate these regional recalls.

“This is the time of the year when many Massachusetts residents make the long trek down to Florida to spend the winter and wait until Red Sox spring training starts. But what happens to them if their car is registered in the Bay State, and not the Sunshine State, under this regional recall system? Drivers could be driving a ticking airbag time bomb, and our auto regulators won’t ever tell them. It’s time to end this ludicrous policy that endangers our roads and puts lives at risk,” said Senator Markey.”

Regional recalls make no safety sense because all Americans deserve equal protection.
Election May Affect Safety For Better or Worse.
Senators Markey (MA) and Blumenthal (CT) are providing safety leadership of life or death importance for their constituents and all Americans.
Elections have consequences.  Motor vehicle fatality rates vary substantially State.  Year in and year out, Massachusetts has the lowest motor vehicle fatality rate of any State in the nation.  Connecticut is usually close as one of the safest States.
Based on my work to advance auto safety since 1978, I believe fatality rates by State vary for many reasons.   But one factor is the quality of governance at federal, State and local levels of government.  See the latest State fatality rates attached that show a high correlation between Blue States with better safety than Red States with worse motor vehicle safety records.
How many Americans know these figures for their States?
The NY Times is regularly publishing expected results of the forthcoming Senate elections in Blue & Red States.  The 8 State races currently rated “competitive” are as follows:
Blue: CO, NH, Iowa.
Red: Alaska, Georgia, NC, Kansas, Arkansas.
For anyone wishing a count of crash deaths since 2002 by State, by year, and by Congressional district you can use my Crash Death Mapping Tools at
If more Americans only knew how much their safety and happiness needed to be, and could be, improved by their votes — and acted upon that knowledge we could help build a safer America.

Searching For GM Crash Victims 11 Years Later

Searching For GM Crash Victims 11 Years Later

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
The Search Too Slow for Too Many 

On November 10, 2014 the NY Times reported:

“WASHINGTON, Conn. — Jean P. Averill warranted only a footnote.

Her death in a car crash in 2003 appeared at the bottom of page 103 in the 315-page internal report on the failure of General Motors to disclose a deadly safety defect in millions of its small cars.

And even then Ms. Averill’s name was blackened out in the version of the report released to the public….

In May, The Times reported the identities of 12 of the 13 victims identified by G.M. through interviews, accident databases and communications from federal regulators. In those cases as well, the families said G.M. did not inform them that it had included their lost family member in its internal tally.

Ms. Averill’s relatives said it never crossed their minds to sue G.M. after the crash because nothing was known publicly then about the ignition-switch defect.

“We feel bad that we couldn’t have thought of doing something way back then,” Sam Averill said, “and it might have saved a lot of other lives.””  See

Actions Urged

On November 12, 2014, Center for Auto Safety (CAS) advocate Clarence Ditlow urged GM’s Feinberg to do more, faster, and better to identify crash victims.  See attached letters to Feinberg.

Bloomberg reported on Feinberg’s reaction to the Ditlow letter as follows:“Feinberg disagreed with Ditlow’s statement that claims are being handled too slowly, saying he has so far processed more than 800 requests for payment.

“We have processed every single claim that has been submitted to us with documentation,” Feinberg said. “All remaining claims –- in the hundreds -– have absolutely no documentation whatsoever.”…

“Our mandate is to do all we can to reach out to legitimate victims and help them to file claims,” Feinberg said in the e-mail. “We are not passively standing by and waiting for claims.”  See

On November 12, 2014, Senators Markey, Blumenthal, and Nelson urged President Obama to act.  See attached letter.
GM Crash Victims?  
How many are there?   Tens as Feinberg reports 32 crash deaths he deems eligible as of Nov. 7, 2014?  See current GM Feinberg statistics attached. Hundreds as CAS reports 303 crash deaths (airbag non deployment)? Thousands as NHTSA FARS contains 1,751 occupant deaths in recalled vehicles in GM?  (Not all due to ignition GM defect.)   Or many more?  During the period 2000 to 2012, more than 130,000 people lost their lives due to crash injuries suffered as occupants of all GM vehicles — about 20 people per day.   This does not include pedestrians and others involved in fatal crashes with GM vehicles.  See are the GM Crash Victims?  
When asked, the GM Feinberg program responded:

“The only public information regarding eligible claimants is what appears on our website.

For obvious privacy and confidentiality issues – we cannot provide or make public any claimant’s personal information.”

When asked what if victims granted permission?The response was:

If the claimant wants to provide their own personal information to you or to the media or whomever  – they may certainly do so.

We will not provide it.

For more info on the GM Feinberg program see
How Will Safety and Justice be served?
Time, Information, Money, Expertise, and Resources are needed.  
Time:  The GM Feinberg program set a deadline of December 31, 2014 for crash victims to submit claims to be evaluated for eligibility.  Not much time left.
Information:  Families of crash victims will have to find and document information on their crash and their injuries and consequences.  
Money:  Crash victims may not have much money to explore whether or not they can make a claim.
Expertise:  Crash victims often do not have access to the expertise needed to advocate for themselves.
Resources:  Crash victims do not have the organizational resources to find and join with others to build a political coalition for justice and safety.
Imagine if the NHTSA were not a captive agency.  Imagine if President Obama wanted to direct NHTSA to create a Task Force for Auto Safety and Justice.   Time, Information, Money, Expertise, and Resources:  Such a NHTSA Task Force would not be bound by an artificial deadline of December 2014.  It could analyze the information on the 130,000 GM fatal crashes in their databases as well as GM’s databases. It could work on behalf of all GM crash victims with the Justice Department and State Attorney Generals nationwide.  The limitations that crash victims face as individuals up against GM could be overcome by a NHTSA that was not captive.  See
President Obama can come out on the side of crash victims for both Safety and Justice.