The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the Department of Transportation, has as its mission statement: “Save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes.”
Lately, though, the agency seems far more interested in kowtowing to corporate interests, as it offers lax regulations, gives away high safety ratings and allows car manufacturers to opt out of answering tough questions about their defective products.
In recent years, there have been serious issues like fuel tank fires in Jeeps, air bag failures in Hondas and defective ignitions in GM’s cars, but the NHTSA often just sits on its hands until well after drivers are injured or killed.
The agency has also been so submissive to carmakers that it made some of the questions it poses about fatal accidents optional.
When a 2007 accident killed one passenger and injured another as a result of unintentional acceleration, Toyota chose not to reply to NHTSA inquiries, answering instead, “Toyota understands that this request is optional and respectfully declines to respond at this time.”
When the victim’s families later brought a lawsuit against the automotive giant, Toyota was found guilty and ordered to pay $3 million in compensatory damages. Just this year, a federal judge approved $1.2 billion in further fines after determining that Toyota hid these acceleration issues for years.
The NHTSA is legally entitled to force the recall of defective vehicles, but the agency says it has instead pressured automakers to voluntarily conduct recalls without actually using its legal authority. According to the agency, these “voluntary” actions benefit consumers, because the recalls occur with less delay.
The NHTSA has long fallen short of expectations in policing car manufacturers and fulfilling its investigatory promise. The agency is ridiculously sloth-like in its analyses, and refuses to stand up against the multibillion-dollar automobile industry unless it is forced to by external influences.
I Was Injured in a Car Accident Involving a Recalled Vehicle, and I Need Help
The companies that design, manufacture and sell vehicles or vehicle component parts have a responsibility to use proper testing procedures and follow governmental regulations. If your car accident was caused by a vehicle associated with a general recall, call our firm today to schedule a free consultation to find out if you have grounds for a lawsuit. Our experienced product liability attorneys may be able to get you the compensation you deserve.
Did You Know? It has been 35 years since the NHTSA has invoked its legal authority to order a company to recall cars.
Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P.