GM Ignition-Switch Recall Prompts Bill To Make Early-Warning Reports Public | Edmunds

GM Ignition-Switch Recall Prompts Bill To Make Early-Warning Reports Public


Just the Facts:
  • In response to the GM recall of nearly 1.4 million vehicles in the U.S. with defective ignition switches, two U.S. senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that would allow consumers to see the "early- warning reports" that automakers must submit to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • "Timely information can save lives when it reveals lethal defects," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in a statement. "NHTSA's job should be to make life-saving information available, not more difficult to access."
  • The bill calls for an accessible database that will be "a vital tool for drivers and consumer advocates in preventing future harm."

WASHINGTON — In response to the GM recall of nearly 1.4 million vehicles in the U.S. with defective ignition switches, two U.S. senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that would allow consumers to see the "early-warning reports" that automakers must submit to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The recall involves the 2005-'07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2006-'07 Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Solstice, 2003-'07 Saturn Ion and 2007 Saturn Sky.

"Timely information can save lives when it reveals lethal defects," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in a statement. "NHTSA's job should be to make life-saving information available, not more difficult to access."

The bill, which is designed to close loopholes in the existing system, calls for an accessible database that will be "a vital tool for drivers and consumer advocates in preventing future harm."

Authors of the bill say it will require more information to be reported to the public Early Warning Reporting database when automakers first become aware of incidents involving fatalities.

In 2000, Congress required a new Early Warning Reporting System for NHTSA to catch safety defects before they resulted in fatalities. But safety advocates contend that the system does not work.

The early-warning reports submitted to NHTSA are a requirement of the 2000 TREAD Act, which was instituted in the aftermath of the Ford-Firestone recall.

"In light of the problems revealed with Toyota unintended acceleration and (Chevrolet) Cobalt airbags, we know EWR is broken and needs to be fixed," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety, in a statement. "Auto companies have run millions of defective vehicles through loopholes in EWR, including not having to submit documents on deaths caused by defects when they first learn of them."

The bill would require auto and equipment manufacturers to automatically submit the accident report or other document that first alerted them to a fatality involving their vehicle or equipment to NHTSA's Early Warning Reporting database. NHTSA is then required to automatically make those documents public unless they are exempted from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The bill would also require NHTSA to upgrade its online databases to improve searchability and integrate its different databases so they can all be searched at once.

"The Department of Transportation has the authority to require critical safety information be made publicly available, but it has never used its authority," said Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., in a statement. "We need the Early Warning Reporting system to provide actual early warnings to ensure the public is informed and possible defects are fully investigated."

Edmunds says: This is the first bill to be introduced in Congress following the massive GM recalls and signals a push to reform U.S. auto safety laws.

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