Delays In NHTSA Investigations May Contribute To Deaths

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is facing increased scrutiny as more and more petitions and complaints are brought forward to demonstrate that consumers and rental agencies routinely complained about defects in vehicles. On August 11, 2014, the Associated Press revealed the outcome of an in-depth review of the NHTSA's complaint and petition processes.

When members of the public or non-profit agencies discover potential safety defects, they can inform the NHTSA of their concerns in one of two ways. Firstly, a concerned person or organization may file a complaint. A complaint is used when there is only knowledge or evidence of a defect based on a single accident. For instance, a driver who noticed an ignition defect would file a complaint.

Secondly, members of the public may file a petition. A petition is a more formal process and usually is an aggregate of multiple incidences of defects that have been identified and for which the petition includes evidence. For example, a nonprofit organization called the Center for Auto Safety, petitioned the NHTSA to investigate Jeep Cherokees after finding multiple incidences of exploding gas tanks in 2009.

That petition, which did not result in any action by the NHTSA for nine months, was filed on behalf of injured owners of Jeep SUVs. At the time that the petition was filed in 2009, the Center for Auto Safety identified 12 separate fires and one fatality in their petition. Five years later, the NHTSA finally announced a recall in June of 2014. At the time of the recall, 51 deaths were attributed to Jeep SUV fires.

While some members of Congress are suggesting that the NHTSA be given additional money to meet a four month investigation deadline set by law in 1974, others suggested that the NHTSA and its directors be penalized for failing to launch and maintain timely investigations. It remains to be seen whether the newly revealed delays in NHTSA investigations have an impact on the agencies annual budget.

Knoxville Tennessee auto accident lawyers at Greg Coleman Law are available to assist you with any questions you have about automobile defects. Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys at (865) 247-0080.