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Report: NHTSA auto recall investigations taking too long

Auto safety recalls are supposed to protect the public from driving unsafe vehicles that can contribute to accidents and injuries. Despite 16.2 million cars and trucks being recalled last year, an additional million vehicles were not recalled last year due to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) not completing their investigations in a timely manner.

The NHTSA investigations into auto safety problems are supposed to be resolved within 12 months but many investigations are taking much longer, according to a consumer safety report. Consumer safety groups are concerned that many people may still be driving unsafe vehicles in the U.S., which could cause serious and even fatal car accidents.

Consumer safety advocates say that the NHTSA needs to improve their investigations and a major way to increase the timeliness of their investigations is to add more investigators. Currently, potential vehicle safety issues are investigated by 28 investigators. The number of investigators has only increased by two people since 2001 despite the higher number of safety issues that may threaten the public.

Many consumer groups think that the NHTSA needs additional money to hire more investigators to make sure vehicle safety investigations are completed as fast as possible to protect consumers from driving unsafe vehicles. The president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety also thinks the NHTSA needs to hire more investigators. The president said that while the budget was increased for traffic safety programs, the budget for investigating defective automobiles has not been sufficient.

The NHTSA's goal is to have auto recall investigations completed within 12 months. However, a 2011 report by the Transportation Department's inspector general said that many investigations were not completed on time. In fact, 40 percent of investigations were six months late, with the longest investigation taking 29 months.

The failure of the NHTSA to investigate possible vehicle defects is a significant safety issues for U.S. drivers. Many consumer safety groups say that the NHTSA and other governmental agencies need to do more to get unsafe and potentially dangerous vehicles off the road.

Source: New York Times, "U.S. Inquiries Over Automobile Safety Dragging On," Christopher Jensen Feb. 22, 2013

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