For an agency that claims to be the “global leader in motor vehicle and highway safety”, it is troubling that safety experts and lawmakers are not alone in asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) where have you been during the unintended acceleration investigations?
Along with shocking revelations that Toyota higher-ups bragged about saving $100 million by negotiating with federal regulators to limit the scope of an unintended acceleration recall about three years ago, new information detailing the size and scope of Toyota’s lobbying efforts has raised urgent concerns about the NHTSA’s integrity and ability to effectively regulate the auto industry.
Where were our government regulators?
As American consumers, we expect our federal regulators to step up and protect us from greedy corporations. After all, that is what organizations like the NHTSA are supposed to do. As stated on the NHTSA website, their mission is to “save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.”
However, NHTSA documents obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform committee showed that despite being aware of problems with unintended acceleration, the agency failed to fully investigate the problem. One time they even cited a lack of resources as a reason for failing to follow up on specific reports of vehicles accelerating unexpectedly.
Additional incidents of “vehicle surges” (another name for unintended acceleration) were dismissed when NHTSA claimed that they found nothing abnormal about the vehicles in question. Clearly, with a worldwide recall of over 8 million vehicles, there was something wrong – something that should have been addressed before countless deaths, injuries and accidents from preventable traffic crashes.
Surge in unintended acceleration complaints IGNORED?
According to one safety advocacy group, complaints about unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles shot up more than tenfold between model years 2002 and 2007. This happened, some analysts theorize, when Toyota switched to an electronic throttle. It is this throttle which is at the center of today’s Toyota recall controversy for unintended acceleration.
Even auto insurance companies have been complaining about problems with newer model Toyota vehicles. State Farm, the largest auto insurer in the United States, apparently told federal regulators that they noticed a spike in accidents involving Toyota vehicles after the electronic throttles were installed.
Despite an increasing number of reports from safety groups, insurers and Toyota owners themselves involving vehicle accidents, injuries and deaths, the NHTSA was for some reason unable to find a problem. Skeptics ask: could Toyota’s intense lobbying in Washington D.C. have something to do with this?
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