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Blumenthal, Markey Reiterate Call for NHTSA to Increase Reporting, Transparency on Potentially Fatal Auto Defects

Recent hearingremarks from head of agency commit to transparency,possible rulemaking to make more information available to the public

Washington, DC) - U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey, members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today reiterated their call to National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) to increase early warning reporting requirements for automakers in order to make more potentially life-saving information available to NHTSA and the public. There are 124 confirmed deaths due to the faulty GM ignition switch and at least eight confirmed deaths from exploding Takata airbags. Both recalls could and should have been prevented had the agency made more information available to the public when it was made aware of it. The June 2015 Transportation Department Inspector General report on NHTSA documented repeated missed opportunities to identify these fatal safety defects and recommended numerous changes to requirements for automakers to report early warning information as well as changes to the manner in which NHTSA reviews those reports. 

Recently, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was found to have violated the Motor Vehicle Safety Act in the way it executed vehicle safety recalls covering more than eleven million defective vehicles. As part of NHTSA’s enforcement action, NHTSA required the automaker to provide NHTSA with comprehensive reporting on each death or injury incident that is reportable to the agency. These steps are a substantial improvement over previous handling of safety recalls and reflect the direction the Senators are calling on NHTSA to move in, but the lawmakers want NHTSA to go further by making such information public and applicable to all automakers, not just the one.

“The longer NHTSA waits to issue new requirements that automakers automatically submit all early warning documents related to potentially fatal defects and that NHTSA make this information available to the public one a user-friendly website, the higher the chance that the next fatal defect goes undetected,” write the Senators in the letter to NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “It is time to recall our defective early warning reporting system and issue new rules to detect fatal defects.”

A copy of the Senators’ letter to NHTSA can be found HERE.

Senators Markey and Blumenthal’s Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act would require automobile and equipment manufacturers to automatically submit the accident report or other document that first alerted them to a fatality involving their vehicle or equipment to NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting database.  NHTSA would then required to automatically make those documents public unless they are exempted from public disclosure under FOIA. The legislation also would require NHTSA to consider Early Warning Reporting information when it is investigating potential safety defects and when it is evaluating citizen petitions for automobile safety standards or enforcement actions.