The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may not be living up to its job to help maintain public safety by effectively regulating vehicles and in-vehicle technology. The NHTSA may also be failing to fulfill its role in providing accurate and timely information to the public when a vehicle-related problem arises.
A personal injury lawyer knows car manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their vehicles and devices. It is the job of car manufacturers to ensure that they don't release dangerous cars. Auto makers can be held legally responsible if defects cause injury.
However, the NHTSA needs to serve as a better watchdog. Regulators must effectively oversee what these manufacturers are doing and should ensure agency staffers are proactive in their duties.
A bipartisan group of leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are concerned about a spate of recent failures. Committee members have asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation into whether the NHTSA is working as effectively as possible.
The NHTSA May Not be Doing its Job
According to Auto News, both Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee signed a letter to the Government Accountability Office stating: "As vehicle functions and safety systems before more complex, these findings raise concerns about NHTSA's process of obtaining data and investigating vehicle defects." Their concerns are legitimate. There have been several recalls in the past year as a result of serious defects, and the NHTSA has faltered in numerous responses.
One recent high-profile recall occurred when it was revealed General Motors vehicles had faulty ignition switches. The problem would cause the car, as well as life-saving safety equipment, to suddenly turn off as a person was driving. The NHTSA may have known about this problem for six years, and GM also knew about the problem for even longer. Yet, neither GM nor the NHTSA acted to alert the public and get the defective vehicles off the road, resulting in unnecessary injuries and even deaths.
Another recall that is making headlines involved airbags manufactured by Takata. The Japanese company makes airbags for 10 different automakers. It's been recently revealed to the public that some of those airbags explode and strike vehicle occupants with shrapnel. At least four fatalities and dozens of injuries reportedly occurred because of the defect in the Takata airbags.
Unfortunately, the NHTSA made several mistakes in its rolw in dealing with the defective Takata airbags. First, the NHTSA provided incorrect information regarding the vehicles that were affected by the recall. Second, the NTHSA's website tool designed to allow motorists to search to see if their vehicle was impacted by a recall did not work correctly.
Vehicle technology has become much more complex and the NHTSA needs to ensure that it is actually doing an effective job alerting people to when a problem arises. Hopefully, an investigation into the agency will help to ensure that the NHTSA is doing a good job in protecting the public.
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