Progress on Uncovering Deadly Defect Information

Progress on Uncovering Deadly Defect Information

June, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

NHTSA & Industry Deadly Secrecy – Delay, Denial & Obfuscation

For many years the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has had to fight both the NHTSA and the auto companies to reveal for the public deadly defect information – as required by law.  Delay at Justice Department – see the 2011 CAS letters to the Justice Department seeking transparency for Death and Injury Inquiries (DI’s) at at NHTSA – see 2012 CAS Letter to NHTSA Administrator Strickland (before the Administrator resigned and exited through the NHTSA revolving door to join a law firm representing auto industry clients) at 

The CAS had to file FOIA after FOIA to obtain lists of Death Inquiries for the public.  After one gets a list, one then has to FOIA for the underlying documents obtained by the DI which may consist of legal complaints, police reports, insurance claims, accident reconstruction or simple demand letters. 
Obfuscation at NHTSA for years.  The CAS reports:

“Under 49 CFR Part 579 (Early Warning Reporting Rule), automakers must submit summaryinformation to NHTSA on death and injury claims filed against them. (See As described in attached NHTSA Fact Sheet “NHTSA-ODI-EWR Facts, one can search the EWR reports for the summary information on death and injury reports but it is so vague as to be useless.

EWR submissions by manufacturers and NHTSA summary reports on passenger vehicles are grouped into 28 component categories so broad one doesn’t know what the report is. E.g., onecategory covers the fuel system – is this the fuel filler neck, the fuel rail, the fuel injection, the throttle body, the evaporative canister, the fuel tank, the electronic control unit that controls fuel  metering or what? 

The categories are: 01 steering system, 02 suspension system, 03 foundation brake system, 04 automatic brake controls, 05 parking brake, 06 engine and engine cooling system, 07 fuel system, 10 power train, 11 electrical system, 12 exterior lighting, 13 visibility, 14 air bags, 15 seat belts, 16 structure, 17 latch, 18 vehicle speed control, 19 tires, 20 wheels, 22 seats, 23 fire, 24 rollover, 25 electronic stability control system, 26 forward collision avoidance system, 27 lane departure prevention system, 28 backover prevention system, 98 where a system or component not covered by categories 01 through 22 or 25 through 28, is specified in the claim or notice, and 99 where no system or component of the vehicle is specified in the claim or notice. If an incident involves more than one such code, each shall be reported separately in the report with a limit of five codes to be included.

In the case of the Toyota 4Runner steering rod relay recall, 05V-389, for which NHTSA opened a timeliness investigation on May 10, 2009, Toyota coded a clear steering rod relay fracture that led to a rollover crash with 3 injuries as rollover and power train but not steering. In a September 2004 Audit of EWR, the DOT Inspector General found that EWR can’t identify steering defects & NHTSA Administrator Runge agreed to that finding.”

Senators Markey and Blumenthal have campaigned to require NHTSA to not only make all DIs public and searchable but also to require that the underlying documents behind a death claim be provided to the agency along with the initial EWR death claim report so that one doesn’t have to wait for NHTSA to request the documents.

Markey, Blumenthal Statement on NHTSA’s “Path Forward”

New Hope From NHTSA and CAS

“Under new NHTSA Administrator Rosekind, the walls of secrecy surrounding Death Inquiries are beginning to crumble. In response to a FOIA, NHTSA just provided CAS a complete list of all DIs from 2010 to present.  The Center then took that list and combined it with earlier DI lists to make a searchable list by manufacturer of all DIs.”   See

The CAS has now produced “How To Find EWR Reports Based on NHTSA DIs” that is an example of the deadly – and potentially life saving – information that now can be found through careful examination.  See attached CAS “How To Find EWR Reports“.

Additional valuable Defect Investigations resources are now publicly available thanks to the CAS work at their Defect Investigations Page, under Early Warning Reporting at

Years of hard work by the Center for Auto Safety, Congressional and public pressure, and now new NHTSA leadership are advancing auto safety.  It is about time.



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