Watchdog Says: Feds Not Moving Fast Enough on Recalls
Federal auto safety regulators are falling down on the job, according to a new report from a U.S. government watchdog.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is not moving fast enough to look into car defects that can pose serious threats to everyone on the road, the Transportation Department’s inspector general recently concluded.
The agency actually investigated just a small fraction of the more than 75,000 consumer complaints it received in 2019, auditors found. That means many defective and malfunctioning cars are more likely to remain on the road, putting drivers, passengers, pedestrians and others in harm’s way.
The slow movement of probes is a result of various factors, according to the inspector general’s report. The agency is particularly ill-equipped to address rapidly evolving problems or severe risks to auto safety. It also does not have an integrated computer system for its investigations and does not consistently follow its own procedures for making safety problems a high priority, the audit concluded.
NHTSA, which was launched in 1970, is tasked with investigating consumer complaints. It also oversees the recall process for defective vehicles.
“NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) plays a key role by gathering and analyzing relevant information, investigating potential defects, identifying unsafe motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment, and managing the recall process,” the auditors explained. “Given the impact NHTSA’s efforts to adequately address safety defects have on the traveling public, we initiated this audit to assess ODI’s current processes for investigating and identifying safety defects.”
Serious Car Defects are All Too Common
The world’s largest automakers call back millions of vehicles every single year, citing a wide range of defects from shoddy brakes to manufacturing snafus that could cause engine fires.
More than 2.5 million vehicles are currently subject to open, urgent recalls, data compiled by CARFAX show. Those cars have "do not drive" or "park outside" warnings, highlighting the serious safety threats posed by the defects.
Fortunately, car owners and lessors in California have some important rights and protections under the state’s lemon law.
The lemon law generally requires carmakers to perform a wide range of repairs on vehicles while they are under warranty. It also forces manufacturers to buy back vehicles that they are unable or refuse to fix. That means compensating the owner for the vehicle’s purchase price, as well as financing charges, rental car costs and other related expenses.
Talk with a California Lemon Law Attorney
If you have been stuck with a defective or malfunctioning vehicle, a California lemon law attorney at Bickel Sannipoli APC can help you fight back.