Hundreds of crashes involving defective cars are going unreported each year because under U.S. safety rules automakers aren’t required to report suspicious accidents for models more than 10 years old. That causes concern for safety advocates, because they say the average age of cars on U.S. roads is 11.4 years. Almost half of the vehicles aren’t covered under existing regulations. As a result, many incidents don’t make it into a government early-warning database designed to catch patterns of defects that regulators can use to determine if a recall is necessary. In effect, the rules haven’t kept pace with the reality on the nation’s roads.
Legislation introduced in February by Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, would eliminate the 10-year limit as part of a broader effort to make safety data more useful to the public. Hopefully, this legislation will pass and become law. My friend Joan Claybrook, a Washington-based consumer advocate and who headed up the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during the Carter Administration, observed in a recent interview with Bloomberg News:
The law is absolutely out of date because companies have made it out of date by ignoring defects for so long in some of these cases. It ought to be open-ended.
When Congress decided in 2000 that automakers should pay for defects going back 10 years, vehicles were nine years old on average, according to IHS Automotive. This year, according to IHS, about 121 million cars and trucks aren’t covered under existing rules. It is predicted by IHS that the average vehicle age will rise to 11.9 years by 2019. Allan Kam, an auto-safety consultant who spent 25 years at NHTSA, believes it may be time to get rid of the time limit altogether. Mr Kam stated:
Even if you make it 12 or 13 years, there will still be millions of vehicles not covered If equipment is supposed to last the life of the vehicle, it should measure the life of the vehicle.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 12 carmakers including GM, Ford and Toyota, hasn’t taken a position on eliminating the time limit. Interestingly, neither has NHTSA. Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for NHTSA, said the agency regularly evaluates potential defects of vehicles older than 10 years. He also said existing regulations require automakers to notify NHTSA and consumers if a safety defect exists. Hopefully, members of Congress will not be “swayed” by the lobbyists for the automobile industry and pass the legislation mentioned above. I would recommend that you read the article in Bloomberg News on May 4, 2015, on the subject of recalls and repairs.
Source: Bloomberg News, May 4, 2015 written by Jeff Green and Margaret Crowin Fisk
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