The top automotive safety watchdog in the U.S. is conducting fewer defect investigations than ever in its history. This is a major shift that consumer advocates say could increase the chances of dangerous automotive defects that could cause serious injury or death in future years.
According to a recent Consumer Reports story, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched only 13 safety investigations in 2017. This is down tremendously from the 204 investigations that were initiated in 1989.
The major decline is coming not long after several huge safety defect scandals slammed the auto manufacturing industry, such as Takata airbags and the problem with General Motors’ ignition switch. The airbag fiasco has been blamed for dozens of deaths and injuries and required a recall of tens of millions of vehicles around the world. Some of the recalled vehicles were more than 10 years old.
The consumer safety group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety stated recently that the American public is relying on the NHTSA to keep an eye on automotive safety so that there are fewer deaths and injuries on public roads. Americans expect the U.S. government to protect them, but as the NHTSA is conducting fewer investigations, there will be a negative effect on the safety of American motorists.
One of the issues with NHTSA in recent days is that since the Trump administration took control, there has been no chief for the agency. Deputy Administrator Heidi King was named to her position at NHTSA last year and has been nominated to be the head of the agency.
Safety advocates also note that NHTSA has not levied a civil penalty against an auto manufacturer since the end of 2015. That was when it fined Fiat Chrysler $70 million for delaying recalls and BMW $40 million for not reporting safety defects.
NHTSA contended recently to Consumer Reports that the agency communicates better than it once did. Detailed investigations are no longer as necessary as they were years ago.
NHTSA data reflects that a change to fewer official investigations began in 2016, when President Obama was still in office. The number of investigations reached an all-time low in 2017. The new administration has signaled that it wants a more business-friendly regulatory environment to stimulate economic growth. Some argue that rolling back or weakening consumer protections could cause more deaths and injuries.
It is still unclear what the safety effect will be from the reduced number of NHTSA investigations. But anyone who is injured by a defect in a vehicle should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss legal action.
Have You Been Injured by an Auto Defect? Talk to An Attorney Now.
Each year, there are many recalls for automotive defects. But the fact that the NHTSA is conducting fewer defect investigations each year means there could be more injuries and even deaths from dangerous automotive defects. Our Southern California personal injury attorneys at Neale & Fhima can help you to obtain compensation if you have been injured by a defective vehicle or vehicle part. Please contact our law offices today for a free legal consultation.