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Audit Critical of NHTSA Recall Oversight of Dangerous Vehicle Defects

A new audit takes vehicle safety regulators to task for delayed reaction in its oversight of automobile recalls that likely left consumers in the dark about dangerous defects for months.

The vehicle recall oversight audit, issued by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General (requested by Congress in 2015), concluded the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) isn’t doing enough to make sure vehicle manufacturers are following through on their safety recalls and the public is deprived of critical information about the safety of their vehicles. The analysis delved into several years’ worth of data, with particular interest in the several years during which vehicle recalls spiked. It includes the time frame during the Takata airbag recall, now recognized as the largest and most complex vehicle safety recall ever. A total of 15 deaths and more than 220 injuries in the U.S. have been linked to the airbag defect, which involves spraying shrapnel at drivers when deployed. (A total of 23 Takata airbag-related deaths have been reported globally.) Vehicles involved include 21 vehicles manufactured by Honda and two by Ford Motor Co.

The inspector general noted the number of light passenger vehicle recalls issued annually rose from 180 in 2012 to 346 in 2016 – a stunning increase of 92 percent. The number of actual vehicles involved in those recalls also rose during that time, from 15.6 million to 46.6 million – a rise of 200 percent. Overseeing those recalls at the NHTSA was an office of just eight people, including five recall specialists, one program management, an assistant and a single engineer.

The report concluded that in the Takata air bag recall process, the NHTSA failed to abide its own procedural guidelines or take action to address the extremely low recall completion rates. Further, the agency’s delay in launching an investigation in the first place likely resulted in delayed expansion of those recalls, the audit said.

NHTSA officials responded with agreement to some – but not all – of the IG audit, and agreed to implement certain recommendations.

Our Orlando car accident attorneys understand this is not the first time the NHTSA has come under fire in recent years for its handling of car recalls. In fact, Reuters reports this is the fourth audit by the IG’s office to be critical of the NHTSA since just 2011. An audit published in 2015 failed to carefully review safety issues, hold vehicle manufacturers accountable, collect adequate safety data or properly train its staff. The result was significant safety concerns being overlooked. Specifically, the recall management division of the agency had received Takata’s recall notice of some 140,000 airbag inflators, with notice the company intended to tell vehicle owners to have the defect repaired by early 2015. However, three years later, the recall division had no documentation indicating manufacturers indicating they had actually taken this action, nor is their any record of their requesting it.

The agency has responded by noting that a review is underway by a third-party risk management firm to help determine how it can improve the recall process.

In total, approximately 50 million faulty inflators were affected in the U.S., though less than half have thus far been replaced. The airbag manufacturer has filed for bankruptcy, sold all assets, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and is the subject of a $1 billion fine.

If you have been injured as a result of a defective vehicle or faulty vehicle part, we can help you examine your legal options and determine the best course of action.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Government audit rips NHTSA on how it handled Takata recalls, July 18, 2018, By Andrew Krok, CNet

More Blog Entries:

Passenger Injuries in South Florida Car Crashes, July 5, 2018, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog

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