The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was created in 1966 and in the first decade after the agency came into existence, the NHTSA promulgated more than 50 safety standards. Many of the regulations that the NHTSA set in place during that time were resisted by automakers but the rules remained in effect and car makers adapted. The increased safety of vehicles because of NHTSA rules has played a major role in reducing the number of car accident deaths over the past several decades, and the safety framework that the NHTSA put in place during this time still largely remains in effect to this day.
Now, however, any car accident lawyer in Delaware Valley knows that the NHTSA does things very differently than it did when it was proactive and set strict rules to improve safety for motorists. Today, the NHTSA is mostly reactionary and uses its authority to recall vehicles after safety violations have occurred and problems developed. The NHTSA passes very few new regulations and, even when directed by Congress to put a rule in place, doesn’t always institute such mandates.
Senate Committee Investigates The Role of the NHTSA
The NHTSA’s reluctance to make rules and regulations for fear of inviting the anger of automakers has resulted in the agency being the subject of a lawsuit by consumer safety groups.
The NHTSA was ordered back in 2008 to institute a requirement that rearview cameras be put into all vehicles in order to reduce the number of backover accident deaths that occur each year. Backovers are particularly risky for young children, and 100 kids die in these types of crashes every single year. Making rearview cameras mandatory in all vehicles would have a big impact on reducing these crashes and on saving lives.
The NHTSA, however, has delayed the rearview camera regulation no less than five times, finally prompting the lawsuit in September of 2013. The NHTSA’s inaction has also come to the attention of lawmakers, and Auto Blog reports that hearings were held in the United States Senate to look into what the NHTSA was doing and whether it was doing enough.
One U.S. Senator, who is also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Panel, expressed concern about the NHTSA delaying rules even when Congress required them. A top law school professor has also warned that the NHTSA has “effectively given up on rule making” unless a statute specifically required the agency to do so. The Center for Automotive Safety also has issues with the NHTSA’s lack of action and would like the agency to move forward and set standards on things like electronic controls in addition to doing what congress requires.
The NHTSA’s abdication of these responsibilities has a very real impact, including on the hundreds of kids killed by backover accidents every year. The agencies job is to make cars safer and protect the public and the NHTSA should take this role seriously and move forward with advancing requirements for safety technology in vehicles.