The U.S. government and a group of nearly 20 major automakers have agreed to participate in a new voluntary program designed to improve vehicle safety. The agreement is the result of several weeks of private talks between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and automakers—including General Motors and Fiat Chrysler that have both been plagued by recalls and civil penalties in recent years due to faulty components.
The voluntary program hopes to improve methods for finding and fixing defects before they result in accidents that cause injuries and damage. Instead of penalizing manufacturers after these accidents occur, the program is an attempt to stop them before they happen. Here are some of the highlights of this program:
- Enhance and facilitate proactive safety by improving dialog between the NHTSA, automakers, and suppliers; enhancing safety consistency through periodic, recall-related information exchanges; and examining the aviation industry's voluntary safety information reporting system to see if it could be adopted for the auto industry.
- Improve analysis and examination of early warning reporting (EWR) data by examining the effectiveness of existing analytical tools and procedures and participating in work groups to analyze and improve the quality of EWR data.
- Maximize safety recall participation by sharing and leveraging industry best practices and inviting consumers to work with automakers and legislators to improve safety recall rates.
- Enhance vehicle cybersecurity by developing industry best practices, engaging cybersecurity researchers, and supporting information sharing within the industry.
The newly announced agreement comes in an era of unprecedented vehicle recalls. In 2014, automakers recalled a record 64 million vehicles in the United States alone, and the NHTSA has been forced to impose hefty fines on automakers and auto parts makers for improperly handling vehicle safety issues. Proponents hope that the new agreement will help produce safer vehicles, resulting in fewer crashes, injuries, and fatalities.
The Agreement Receives Support and Opposition
The recently finalized agreement has its fair share of staunch supporters, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who called the agreement “historic” and touted its potential to help automakers and regulators “avoid the sort of safety crisis that generates the wrong kind of record-setting and headlines.” Likewise, U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan called the agreement “a positive step forward.”
But despite the support for the agreement, not everyone is convinced that its voluntary nature will deliver the desired results and translate into safer vehicles. Democratic Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are two of its strongest detractors. The senators released a joint statement, voicing their opposition: “From seatbelts to catalytic converters to airbags to fuel economy standards, automakers have proven time and time again that they do nothing voluntarily.”
Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, also remains unconvinced. She called the voluntary agreement “toothless” and went on to say that “the safety of the American public will not be best protected with a kumbaya between the federal agency charged with issuing regulation and the industry seeking to avoid regulation.”
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in an accident caused by a faulty or an unsafe vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Steinberg Injury Lawyers today for a free case evaluation. We have extensive experience handling car accident cases and are ready to help you receive the compensation you may deserve.