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The U.S. Government Shutdown Will Adversely Affect Vehicle Safety

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From NHTSA website on Oct. 1, 2013

From NHTSA website on Oct. 1, 2013.

At the time we wrote this article, the U.S. federal government had shut down, due to an impasse in Congress. One unfortunate result of the shutdown is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will have to stop investigating defects in vehicles, and stop notifying the public about new recalls in those vehicles, as David Shepardson writes for The Detroit News: Autos.

And, as Aurel Niculescu wrote for InAutoNews on Tuesday:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said yesterday it would be forced to furlough 333 of its 597 employees in the event of a partial government shutdown.

‘Functions funded by the Highway Trust Fund will continue, while those funded by annual appropriations will be suspended, including safety defect investigations, field crash investigations, review of consumer complaints and notification of new vehicle and equipment recalls,’ the agency said in a statement.

The government shutdown will prevent the agency from setting new regulations for vehicles, including ongoing work to set rear visibility standards, and the NHTSA has had to stop car assessment testing, giving cars star ratings, and investing odometer fraud, InAutoNews notes.

Because it has to stop auto safety research, the agency may also have to stop its ongoing testing of 3,000 connected vehicles that was extended in August for another six months, Shepardson writes. He notes that that had been taking place in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

As for recalls for defective vehicles, Shepardson writes that carmakers, car seat manufacturers, tire makers, and motorcycle companies would have to decide whether they will voluntarily notify the public about recalls. Some automakers (such as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and Chrysler Group LLC) routinely post press releases on their sites when there are recalls, he writes, and General Motors Co.usually sends statements to those reporters who cover recalls. However, Shepardson notes, it can take weeks or months from the time an automaker notifies NHTSA of a recall and when the automakers notifies dealers and car owners.

Shepardson writes that Ford Motor Co., which “typically doesn’t issue press releases when it has a new recall,” said it would follow standard procedures. Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker told Shepardson that company “would follow our normal process, which includes notifying NHTSA and our dealers, followed by a mailing to our customers.”

The Chicago Tribune writes of the shutdown:

The shutdown, the culmination of three years of divided government and growing political polarization, was spearheaded by Republican Tea Party conservatives united in their opposition to Obama, their distaste for the president’s healthcare law and their campaign pledges to rein in government spending. […]

If Congress can agree to a new funding bill soon, the shutdown would last days rather than weeks, with relatively little impact on the world’s largest economy.

However, a Los Angeles Times editorial says the following:

Unlike the GOP’s previous flirtations with a government shutdown, this fight isn’t being waged in the name of lower deficits and debt. It’s just a desperate attempt to score political points against the Affordable Care Act before it goes fully into effect and the benefits become clearer. As House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said over the weekend, ‘It’s unfortunate that yet again we are in this situation facing another shutdown showdown with no solution to our many fiscal problems in sight.’ He can thank his colleagues in the House GOP for that.


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