The scandal concerning Volkswagen and its not so clean diesel technology is a safety issue on a broad scale. The pollution poured into the atmosphere because of Volkswagen's malfeasance is a real threat in many ways. It does not, however, have a direct connection to car crashes that we know of. The issue does raise a number of concerns about auto safety, however. If a company like Volkswagen is willing to engage in cheating on this scale, risking billion of dollars of fines and damage to their brand (not to mention to the environment), it is safe to wonder how far they might go to cover up deadly auto defects.
It was probably a foregone conclusion once the Senate came under Republican control in January. The push for auto safety reforms was never likely to succeed once the dollars started flying around Capitol Hill. The latest piece of legislation designed to protect auto consumers hit a major snag last week when a Senate committee struck down several measures designed to protect the people from automotive businesses. The push to allow criminal sanctions against auto executives who hide deadly auto defects was struck down. In addition, a measure that would have prevented used car dealers from selling cars with unrepaired recalls was also defeated. The news was largely bad for anyone without a major financial stake in protecting auto industry leaders.
In some recent Blogs, I've ranted and railed against the collusion between Big Pharma and the FDA, about how Big Pharm preys on peoples' fears, and how aggressively they market their products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is supposed to protect the American public. It's supposed to stand between the public and purveyors of cures, medical devices, techniques, procedures and drugs, making sure that these techniques have been properly vetted and are safe before they're used on a defenseless American public.
The Grow America Act is a transportation bill put forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation submitted last month. The bill outlines the department's hopes for improved authority for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to combat defective vehicles. The bill prioritizes the NHTSA's ability to identify defects quickly and inform consumers about potential hazards. It also greatly increased the authority to punish vehicle makers for violations related to vehicle recalls. If the bill passes, it could alleviate the problem of car maker and auto parts makers functionally ignoring the NHTSA in their efforts to pin down safety problems.
Recalls are not the ideal way to handle a defective car or truck. In an ideal world, safety testing would prevent vehicles with dangerous defects from ever reaching consumers. The fact of the matter is that every year, a certain number of potentially dangerous vehicles make their way onto American roads. In 2014, the number of vehicles recalled for potential safety problems reached record numbers. More than 63.9 million vehicles were recalled for a wide variety of concerns, some more serious than others. The number eclipsed the total number of recalls in the three previous years, combined.
Auto defects are a growing safety concern. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has drawn heavy criticism over the past several years for its slow handling of safety defects involving air bags manufactured by Takata and General Motors vehicles with defective ignition switches. In each case, car models with known defects that had the potential to lead to deadly accidents were left on the roads for years before finally being recalled. Congress expressed its displeasure with the NHTSA and called for stronger action going forward. The White House is now looking to give the NHTSA the ability to move faster and perform better by raising its budget.
Cars were recalled at a record pace in 2014. While the effectiveness and efficiency of the recall system was called into question, it is clear that some mechanism is necessary for getting unsafe vehicles off the road. The newly installed head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mark Rosekind, has promised changes to the recall system. He is also warning consumers and auto manufacturers that more recalls are to be expected going forward, not less. The NHTSA may have more work to do to combat recall fatigue, where consumers stop paying attention to recalls because they are so frequent.
Defective automobiles and automobile parts are a common problem. The total number of recalls has risen to record levels. The process by which auto defects are identified and eventually recalled has drawn heavy criticism. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came under fire following what were considered blunders in handling faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles and defective airbags manufactured by Takata. New NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind has promised to improve the defect analysis and recall system.