NHTSA "Asleep at the Switch" During GM's Ignition-Switch Woes, Report Finds | Edmunds

NHTSA "Asleep at the Switch" During GM's Ignition-Switch Woes, Report Finds


Just the Facts:
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was "asleep at the switch" during the ignition-switch problems that plagued GM vehicles, a new report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee said.
  • "It is tragic that the evidence was staring NHTSA in the face and the agency didn't identify the warnings," said Fred Upton (R-MI), committee chairman.
  • Federal safety regulators had "ample information to identify a potential safety defect as early as 2007," the report said.

WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was "asleep at the switch" during the ignition-switch problems that plagued GM vehicles, a new report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee said.

"It is tragic that the evidence was staring NHTSA in the face and the agency didn't identify the warnings," said Fred Upton (R-MI), committee chairman.

Federal safety regulators had "ample information to identify a potential safety defect as early as 2007," the report said.

GM earlier this year recalled 2.6 million vehicles, including the 2005-'10 Chevrolet Cobalt, to fix ignition switches that could unexpectedly turn off engines during operation and disable the airbags.

The problem is now linked to 19 deaths, according to the administrator of GM's victim settlement fund.

"The committee identified key problems in the agency's practices that contributed to the failure of NHTSA to identify the safety defect, including a failure to keep pace with the industry it regulates, information silos, a culture that minimizes accountability and a tendency to get overwhelmed or distracted by specific issues," the report noted.

NHTSA is responsible for overseeing vehicle safety in the U.S.

The report comes ahead of an appearance today by David Friedman, NHTSA acting administrator, before a Senate panel. The hearing, chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), will focus on whether NHTSA is effectively enforcing highway and vehicle safety laws and whether more reforms are needed in the wake of the GM recalls.

Edmunds says: Consumers should expect a push for reform when it comes to vehicle safety, as the spotlight gets turned on NHTSA today.

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