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Investigation into the Speed of Vehicle Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is tasked with reducing motor vehicle accidents and losses that result. Among the responsibilities taken on by the NHTSA is the duty to investigate motor vehicle defects and determine whether a recall should be ordered for a vehicle with a safety concern. The actions surrounding the ignition switch defects in a number of General Motors vehicles have drawn attention to just how effective the NHTSA has been in that role.

A Senate hearing has been scheduled to discuss the NHTSA handling of the GM ignition problem, as well as how the agency has implemented and enforced safety laws. The hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday and will include testimony from the NHTSA acting administrator, as well as other safety officials and a representative from an auto manufacturer trade group.

GM has issued more than 29 million vehicles since the beginning of the year. The auto industry has seen a record number of vehicles recalled in 2014. Many of the vehicles recalled are older vehicles. Safety experts are concerned with the slow response to reported defects that could affect the safety of drivers. The first reports of ignition switch failures preceded the latest round of GM recalls by more than a decade.

The specific defect in GM ignition switches caused some vehicles to change from the "run" position to the "accessory" position. Once that occurred, the vehicle would lose power to the steering and air bags. The vehicles affected would become difficult to control. If a collision did occur, the air bags would not deploy because they were unpowered. The defect has been tied to at least 13 deaths.

Source: The New York Times, "Senate Hearing to Examine N.H.T.S.A.'S Recall Response," by Danielle Ivory, 10 September 2014

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