NHTSA Under Fire
General Motors has been taking a beating this year. Their cars had an unbelievable amount of issues discovered recently, some of which were exceptionally serious. Other automotive manufacturers have also been on a recall frenzy, hoping to identify and correct problems before they cause serious injury, and put their own companies on the hot seat. No company wants to be in GM’s position, not now, not ever.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the government agency charged with policing automotive safety. One of their jobs is to write and enforce federal motor vehicle safety standards.
With so many safety related automotive issues coming to light right now, it is now the NHTSA that is under fire. Some are saying that the agency has fallen asleep on the job, and lawmakers are demanding reform. In the case of General Motors, the automaker has accepted responsibility, but some believe that the NHTSA must accept some of the blame too.
In an unusual display of consensus, both the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. government are in agreement that the NHTSA needs reform. The agency is being asked some very tough questions about past actions, as well as it’s ability to effectively police automotive safety. A house report investigating the GM situation was blistering towards the NHTSA, and they have been grilled by the Senate about their failures to recognize and respond to deadly safety defects.
The NHTSA is under fire, and not only from politicians. The New York Times has recently published several articles highlighting lapses by the agency going back years.
“It’s a very significant moment,” said former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook. “There’s been one disaster after another, and they’ve all gotten tons of publicity, and the public is finally becoming aware of the industry’s overt misbehaviour which results in death and injury. Now they are very concerned that the government is not doing its job, and it’s not.”
The NHTSA, refusing to accept any blame, claims to be vigilant, but understaffed, and is firm that the blame belongs squarely on GM’s shoulders for withholding critical information, and creating a culture of denial and delay, which then endangered the public and cost lives.
In the House investigative report, the NHTSA is said to be exhibiting many of the same shortcomings that they attributed to GM, and that the agency may be too cozy with manufacturers.
“What we have here at NHTSA is a fundamental failure to deal with this essential issue of the priority that the American people put on safety in automobiles,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “People really want a cop on the beat.”
If lawmakers get their way, and are able to bring significant reform to the NHTSA, we can expect the agency to become bigger, more powerful, transparent and better funded. Fines against automakers could be increased, and executives subject to stronger penalties for breaking safety laws.
Regardless, we definitely need vehicles to be safer and the NHTSA to stand tough!
By Linda Aylesworth – car-news.ca