Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Auto Industry Celebrates the New Year by Pointing Fingers


As Christmas time approached, the year 2014 was coming to an end with parents getting two types of very long lists: letters to Santa and car recalls. Although, unlike requests to Santa, lists of car recalls are often times overlooked, even though assuring you have a safe car for your family is more important than any toy you can buy at Toys “R” Us.

Sixty Million cars in 2014 were recalled in the United States, leaving the auto industry galvanized after its worst year in terms of safety. These recalls dealt with a wide variety of problems, such as air bags shooting out metal shards when inflating, break failure, faulty ignition switches, and other potentially fatal mechanical defects. When it comes to taking responsibility for these issues, there’s been a lot of finger pointing back and forth between the car manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So who’s really to blame?

It’s obvious that it’s not in the economical interest of car manufactures to report mechanical flaws to the NHTSA, especially when cars aretested in the U.S after they go on sale. The NHTSA, the governmental agency in charge of overseeing car production, is not naive when it comes to this and understands that they will receive little to no cooperation from car manufacturers. The NHTSA has a branch called the Office of Defects Investigations (ODI), which is solely responsible for discovering safety defects in cars.

Congress didn’t even side with the NHTSA and released a statement saying, “It is tragic that the evidence was staring NHTSA in the face and theagency didn't identify the warnings.” Being apart of the Legislative Branch, Congress is responsible for funding the NHTSA and was responsible for helping establish the U.S Department of Transportation, which is the department the NTHSA serves under.

After reading about Congress scrutinizing the NHTSA, it seemed like a no-brainer to me that the NHTSA should be held accountable for all of these recalls because it’s the agency’s job to make sure that all cars in the United States are regulated. 

I then realized the magnitude of what it meant to be responsible for the mechanical safety of all 250 million cars in the United States. In order to properly oversee that many cars, the NHTSA would have to be extremely well-funded and well-staffed, but the agency is not. Looking at the NHTSA’s budget overview, the Office of Defects Investigations only receives 10 million dollars annually.

What does this mean? It means that Congress, which is responsible for starving the NHTSA of adequate funds, is also responsible for the drastic number in car recalls this year.


 

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