A federal audit by the Department of Transportation’s office the Inspector General has faulted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to “carefully” investigate safety issues, hold automakers accountable collect data or properly train and supervise staff. It also found the agency rejected most requests by staff to open new investigations.
Advocates for automotive safety, including Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl), have complained repeatedly that the NHTSA has been exceptionally slow to respond to major issues, despite promising to make a number of safety improvements during the past 5-years. These include cases regarding fatal flaws such as defective airbags, runaway cars and faulty ignition switches.
The new audit follows a critical one conducted by DOT Inspector General in 2011, initiated by growing criticism of NHTSA’s handling of consumer complaints about the sudden unintended acceleration of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles. Toyota ultimately recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide. In turn, the new review of the agency was deemed necessary in the aftermath of General Motors Co.’s recalls of defective ignition switches linked to 124 deaths and 275 injuries. It also expressed concern about what it described as NHTSA’s “lack of mechanisms to ensure that staff consistently apply” changes.
As a result of the DOT report, NHTSA administrator, Mark Rosekind announced that he hopes to implement recommendations in the audit by June 30.