New NHTSA Teams Speed Response After GM Ignition-Switch Recall

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created two new teams to help the agency better identify potential auto-safety problems, and respond to them more quickly.

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The changes come in response to an analysis of its responses to the GM ignition-switch problems that led to more than 100 deaths and resulted in a recall that affected roughly 800,000 cars from General Motors Company [NYSE:GM].

The three-person Safety Systems Team—which includes a medical doctor as well as a former NASA Ph.D—has already identified needed changes in the agency's workflow, and will work in tandem with the new Risk Control Innovations Program to allow it to respond to dangerous situations more quickly. 

According to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx,“With the SST, we are enlisting three of the most experienced and knowledgeable safety professionals in the world to help us implement these changes. And with the Risk Control Innovations Program, we are breaking down stovepipes and reaching into offices from across NHTSA to address safety risks."

The "Path Forward" report—a year-long review of the agency's internal processes—led to the creation of the new divisions.

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The changes come at a point when the NHTSA faces another growing safety issue, the Takata air bag recall, which could affect 34 million vehicles. That recall has highlighted the challenges of policing a market where many manufactures utilize common suppliers.

Another report, “Workforce Assessment: The Future of NHTSA’s Defects Investigations" (also mentioned in the announcement) included recommendations to increase both staffing and budget significantly for the portions of the the NHTSA responsible for identifying defective components. 

Congress, thus far, has proven unwilling to raise the NHTSA's budget despite having held numerous hearings and investigations into the GM switch problems and the agency's response to them.


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