Investigation Launched into NHTSA Effectiveness
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a federal
agency tasked with helping to ensure vehicles and roadways are safe. Reducing
the risk of collisions is one of the top goals of the NHTSA. As part of
its job, the agency is supposed to obtain information from vehicle manufacturers
about defects. The NHTSA is also supposed to monitor new and existing
safety technologies that can be installed in vehicles.
However, the NHTSA has had some high-profile failures in recent months,
prompting the House Energy and Commerce Committee to make a request to
the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for a full-blown investigation
into whether the agency is doing enough to protect the public. Leaders
of the bipartisan House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a joint letter
to the Government Accountability Office voicing their concerns. The letter
stated concern “about NHTSA’s process of obtaining data and
investigating vehicle defects.”
General Motors Ignition Switch Recall
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s concerns were prompted,
in part, by the NHTSA’s response — or lack thereof–
regarding several recent recalls. One of the recalls involved General
Motors vehicles that had defective ignitions. As a result of the problems
with the ignition, the car would randomly shut off while a motorist was
driving. This problem with the ignition also disabled safety equipment,
presenting a significant risk of
serious injury or
According to some accounts, the NHTSA may have been aware of this problem
as early as 2007 but did not act immediately. GM did not act either until
recently, and the dangerous vehicles remained on the roads for years after
this serious problem was identified.
Takata Airbag Recall
Many feel that the NHTSA has also not been as effective as it should have
been regarding the recent recall of around 8 million vehicles containing
airbags manufactured by Takata. These airbags are found in vehicles made by 10 different automobile manufacturers.
Unfortunately, the airbags may explode and injure those inside by sending
shrapnel flying with powerful force. So far, four fatalities and dozens
of additional injuries have been linked to the exploding airbags.
The NHTSA should have provided accurate information to consumers about
the Takata airbags, officials say. Instead, the agency initially provided
incorrect details about the vehicles that were affected by the problem.
The NHTSA website tool making it possible for people to look up whether
their vehicle was affected by a recall also allegedly malfunctioned.
NHTSA Has Duty to Adapt to New Automotive Technology
As vehicle technologies develop and cars have more advanced safety features,
there is greater potential for problems to occur. The NHTSA needs to take
a proactive role in obtaining information, conducting investigations and
making accurate data available to the public. When the agency fails in
these areas, lives are at stake.