“Total Failure on Auto Safety” & Preponderance of Evidence of NHTSA Captivity

“Total Failure on Auto Safety” & Preponderance of Evidence of NHTSA Captivity

September, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
NHTSA’s Total Auto Safety Failure To Protect
After the September 16, 2014 Senate Hearings on NHTSA, the NY Times published a good editorial headlined “Total Failure on Auto Safety”.  The Times noted:  “The agency also did not connect the dots between consumer complaints, service bulletins G.M. sent to its dealers about the ignition switch and reports of accidents in which air bags didn’t deploy.” See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/opinion/avoiding-the-next-auto-safety-failure.html

The NY Times has been doing excellent reporting on NHTSA failures to protect Americans — so much so I think a Pulitzer Prize should be considered.   Unfortunately, this NY Times editorial did not address GM and industry capture of NHTSA.  More is needed to be done to prevent additional needless deaths and serious injuries — more dots need to be connected.

NHTSA – Industry Lapdog

USA Today’s editorial not only mentioned NHTSA’s captivity but also concluded NHTSA was not a watch dog but a lapdog.  USA Today gave due credit to the NY Times reporting, carried a companion, well documented, Op Ed by Ralph Nader, and provided for public comments.  Seehttp://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/17/ralph-nader-safety-nhtsa-investigation-regulation-congress-gm-stalled-column/15801047/

The NY Times has been keeping an excellent and improving timeline of the GM scandal of deaths and who knew what, when.  The public needs to see more of these dots connected.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/business/senate-hearing-on-nhtsa-and-recalls.html  
Investigative reports still need is an interactive graphic showing a time lapse “chess board” of people who have gone through the DOT NHTSA “Revolving Door” to and from industry – and the powerful positions they hold and held that provide a “preponderance of evidence” of NHTSA captivity.
NHTSA Culture of Captivity, Coverupand Collusion
NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman used the term “preponderance of evidence” – the lack thereof in his view — to defend NHTSA inactions since 2001.  Friedman assured that action would be taken when there was a “preponderance of evidence” in his judgement — not the public’s judgement.  As for public availability of NHTSA information, Mr. Friedman said some of it was available at the NHTSA Public Reading Room.  (So are interested owners of as yet unfixed defective vehicles to drive to D.C.?) On the same day, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce issued its Staff Report “Review of NHTSA” (copy attached).  In it on pages 2 and 3, the Committee describes its interviews of NHTSA investigators.  Repeatedly, these NHTSA investigators told the Committee that they “did not recall” details or conversations regarding the GM switch crash deaths.  Is it not a crime to mislead Congress?
A long time safety researcher, Mr. Tom Kowalick, sent a Report to ranking member Henry Waxman on the GM Recall issues.  He sent a  very serious and substantive report (copy attached).  He included political cartoons on the subject to illustrate public interest in the subject.  On page 10, there is a cartoon showing GM being questioned on its decade of failures to recall deadly vehicles.  To each question the answer given was “We don’t recall.”
Faulty memories of life or death issues have been found by the NY Times at the highest levels of GM.  The current Chairman of the Board of GM, who was on the Board in September of 2013 when the company settled a major ignition switch law suit on a fatal crash, was interviewed by the NY Times:  In February, the initial recall of hundreds of thousands of cars with defective ignition switches was treated in such a routine manner at the board’s monthly meeting that the board’s chairman, Theodore M. Solso, said he had only a vague recollection of the details.

“I can’t remember the specifics,” Mr. Solso said in an interview. “It was a large recall. There were probably cost estimates.””

I wonder when he said “probably cost estimates” whether he was thinking of monetary costs to the corporation or costs of customer lives lost.
We can and must do better protecting people.  Preventing crash deaths and serious injuries is in the long term interests of the public, customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders.


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