NHTSA Left Reeling From New Congressional Report
Posted on behalf of Harbin & Burnett on Sep 16, 2014 in Auto Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is dealing with the aftermath of a critical congressional report issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.The committee found that the NHTSA, the federal agency responsible for regulating car manufacturers and safety defects, failed to prevent safety defects involved in 19 fatalities.
On September 16, 2014, the congressional report was published and very frankly reads the NHTSA the riot act. The house report could reasonably be called extremely critical. The report discussed numerous failures in the NHTSAs internal safety defect review processes, its poor handling of specific complaints and its delayed recall announcements.
Among other things, the report challenged the NHTSAs understanding of airbag systems stating that key investigators at NHTSA lacked a fundamental understanding of how advanced air bag systems functioned." In particular, the report noted that investigators failed to connected defects in the ignition switch to airbag deployment issues.
The report cited systemic failures within the NHTSA that caused chronic oversight, failures to conduct in-depth investigations and failures to properly evaluate safety defect complaints. The report also noted that the NHTSA faces technology challenges: the GM recall exposed a fundamental challenge for [the] NHTSA the agency's ability to keep pace with the technology it regulates.
The details of the NHTSAs Cobalt safety defect investigations discussed in the report revealed that the vehicle safety engineers on staff at the NHTSA did not readily understand the technology and safety systems being used by the auto manufacturers.
The report concluded that neither the NHTSA nor GM errors occurred due to a lack of data. There was overwhelming data available to identify the safety defects, but the information was not shared in a way that would permit key stakeholders to make the right decisions.
Moving forward, the report called on the NHTSA to improve its internal processes and identify the failures in the chain of command that left numerous complaints not investigated.
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