President Obama is expected to name a new permanent chief for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the next two weeks. Three U.S. senators have called for the President to use the opportunity to make substantial changes to the NHTSA and its practices. They want the NHTSA to reform its safety mission and make changes to the way it approaches safety defects.
Among the requested changes is a call for the NHTSA to force automakers to release more information to the public concerning accidents that may be caused by defects. In addition, the senators have asked that the NHTSA improve its safety databases. Finally, they called on the NHTSA to step up efforts to enforce compliance with measures take to provide early warnings about potential defects.
The calls for reform follow a number of problems suffered by the NHTSA concerning the handling of defective air bags manufactured by Takata. The NHTSA announced the defects in a press release that contained factual errors. The release incorrectly identified the vehicles that used potentially defective Takata air bags and gave an incorrect number of vehicles affected. The press release intended to resolve those errors once again gave an incorrect number. These specific mistakes follow more general criticism over the handling of defective ignition switches in several models of General Motors vehicles.
The acting head of the NHTSA, David Friedman, has defended the administration’s actions. It is not known if he is being considered for the position of chief administrator.
Source: The Detroit News, “Senators urge Obama to overhaul NHTSA,” by David Shepardson, 12 November 2014