Changes at DOT & NHTSA
The NY Times reports:
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx acknowledged on Friday that there were “deficits” in the investigative process at the safety agency and “room for self-improvement” in how the government regulates the safety of autos.
“We have taken a set of actions that will aid in improving the effectiveness of N.H.T.S.A.,” Mr. Foxx said in a conference call with reporters.
The admissions drew sharp responses from members of Congress who have been critical of the government’s inability for years to recognize that defective ignition switches in G.M. cars could suddenly cut engine power and disable airbags, putting occupants at risk of death or serious injury.
“There needs to be a complete overhaul of this failing agency,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “The results of this report are long overdue.”….
“The agency will also adopt a “risk control” program that better aligns various departments and encourages more sharing of safety information.
It also proposed a formal process to reach out to lawyers who represent accident victims, partly to make government investigators aware of secret settlements between automakers and litigants on safety issues….
“One safety advocate argued that the changes made by safety agency did not go far enough, and urged the agency to open up investigative reports to the public.
“It still soft-pedals why they have gone from one defect crisis to another,” said Sean E. Kane of the consulting firm Safety Research and Strategies. “What is missing is any mention of the importance of transparency.”
Friday’s reports do not conclude scrutiny of the agency’s handling of the defect, however. The Transportation Department inspector general has been conducting its own examination and results are expected later this month.
For one family tragically affected by the G.M. defect, the reports did bring some sense of closure.
“From Day 1 I said, isn’t N.H.T.S.A. just as guilty as General Motors is?” said Ken Rimer, stepfather of Natasha Weigel, who died in the Wisconsin crash highlighted in the reports. “It’s terrific they are finally owning up to their mistakes.” See http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/06/business/nhtsa-admits-missing-clues-to-gm-ignition-defects.html?mabReward=CTM&moduleDetail=recommendations-2&action=click&contentCollection=Sports®ion=Footer&module=WhatsNext&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&configSection=article&isLoggedIn=false&src=recg&pgtype=article
Consumer Affairs reports:
“The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released two reports outlining their,plans for tougher oversight and identifying shortcomings in its own efforts.
But nothing drew more gasps than the revelation that DOT and NHTSA would be consulting with personal injury lawyers, who often find and document safety hazards long before they come to NHTSA’s attention.
In fact, lawyers who specialize in auto accidents and product liability already have their own informal but highly sophisticated,networks that share data the attorneys collect as they build evidence against automakers. In many cases, records are sealed after a trial ends in an out-of-court settlement, especially those involving huge damage awards arising from injuries caused by safety defects, so the information is never made public….
“On Capitol Hill, Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the NHTSA must resolve to prevent future tragedies like the GM ignition switch debacle.
“We are pleased that NHTSA has acknowledged neglecting critical information that should have moved it to take action much earlier on faulty GM ignition switches that were killing drivers and passengers for years. Unfortunately, for more than a decade, NHTSA failed to address the information and evidence it had in its own database linking defective ignition switch to fatal accidents,” the senators said in a joint statement.
“It is incumbent upon Administrator Rosekind to put in place permanent measures necessary to prevent another tragedy like this from ever happening again. Those measures must include a requirement that the types of secret documents that NHTSA had access to are made public, and the enactment of our legislation that requires more information to be reported to NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting database when auto manufacturers first become aware of incidents involving fatalities.”
The two have introduced legislation that they say would ensure more transparency and earlier reporting of safety issues to prevent auto injuries and fatalities.
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.”
NHTSA Release and Documents are attached