Tag Archives: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Rental car companies will stop renting recalled cars

Renting a car just got a little safer thanks to an agreement with the top four rental car companies. Enterprise/National/Alamo, Hertz/Advantage, Avis/Budget, and Dollar/Thrift agreed to keep recalled cars off the road and agreed to support a bill to make this a law.

The Senate bill would require all recalled vehicles to be taken out of circulation as soon as possible, but no more than 24 hours after the rental car company gets the recall notice.  If the company has more than 5,000 vehicles in question in their fleet, the timeframe will expand to 48 hours.

Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be able to investigate and police rental car companies for violations of the law.

“This breakthrough was years in the making. It will help take recalled rental cars off the road for good,” said Schumer. “Consumers will no longer have to worry about what they aren’t being told when they go to the rental car counter. With the industry’s full backing, we think we have a great shot to get this legislation passed before the end of the year.”

The law was pushed by Cally Houck of California after her two daughters were killed in a crash while driving a recalled vehicle.

Now that this law has support and is on its way through Congress, it’s time safety advocates work to implement a similar law for used cars. It’s legal to buy a used car with an open recall. I’ve reported for NewsChannel 5 on multiple people who bought a used car only to find it was sold to them with a serious safety defect like a rusted rear axle.

Car dealers say it would be difficult to keep tabs on this. Currently, you need to pay for a CarFax report, check the manufacturer’s website, or search NHTSA’s website by make and model. NHTSA bought software to create a centralized database so you can search in one place for all vehicles. You’d simply enter the VIN and find out if the car is recalled. Used car dealers told the GAO the database would be helpful. However, NHTSA told the Government Accountability Office it needs signficantly more resources to implement it.

I hope safety advocates push this now that we seem to be close to a law for rental cars.

It is illegal to sell a new car with a recall. Then again, who would buy a new car that’s already been recalled. It would make me wonder.

Parents still making mistakes with car seats

A new study finds parents are still making mistakes with car seats. It’s essential the seat is installed and used properly because car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 3 to 14, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safe Kids USA looked at 79,000 child safety inspections, and found less than 1/3 of forward facing child seats arrive at an inspection using a top tether. That’s a strap on top of the car seat that hooks to a tether anchor in the car. It adds protection to the child and reduces the forward movement of the child’s head in a crash.

Even parents who used the tether, it only used correctly 59-percent of the time.

“As a nation, we must improve child safety in vehicles by adopting use of the top tether that is on virtually all forward-facing car seats and can be attached to anchors in every car made after 1999.” said Torine Creppy, Executive Director of Safe Kids Buckle Up (SKBU), Safe Kids USA’s multifaceted child passenger safety program.

The good news is that 91 percent of parents knew the history of their car seat. These seats have expiration dates, so it’s important to check that if you get a hand me down seat.

It’s no wonder some parents are making mistakes. The recommendations are always changing.  In March, the American Academy of Pediatrics said kids should stay in a rear facing seat until age 2 or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Yet, in this study only 32 percent of children over age 1 were still riding in a rear facing direction. Parents are not keeping up with all the changes.

In a March release from the Academy, Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP said,”A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collission over the entire body.”

That’s why a clinic is always helpful to make sure you are up to date on the standards. Click here to find out when you can have your car seat inspected in your local area.

Recall system leaves dangerous cars on the road

1999-2000 Ford Windstar photographed at the 20...

Image via Wikipedia

Before you hit the road this holiday weekend, make sure your car is in tip top shape by checking it over and checking to make sure parts on the car haven’t been recalled. My investigation for NewsChannel 5 found 70-75% of cars on the road have open recalls. Every recall is a safety hazard, and in Northeast Ohio I’m hearing story after story of drivers buying used cars only to find out they have corroded so badly the car is unsafe to drive.

Wrong addresses, unwilling consumers, and slow recall processes are all to blame for low response rates to recalls. My car was recalled last August, and this January they still didn’t call me to alert me the parts were in. The only reason I got my car fixed, was the check engine light came on which signaled the problem. Who knows how long I would have waited if the problem didn’t surface. I’ve also reported on the delays with fixing the Ford Windstar because of a shortage of parts on the decade old van.

Another problem — the law. New cars can’t be sold with an open recall, but there is no law for used cars. My investigation for NewsChannel 5 found dozens of used cars for sale in Northeast Ohio with open recalls. When we specifically asked about the recall, the salesman told us they fix the recall if they know it. Others told us it’s the consumer’s responsibility.

Consumer checklist
So, consumers need to do their homework before they buy a car to avoid hours on the phone or hours sitting at the dealership getting the recall fixed, if it’s fixable.

Whether you are in the market for a car or not, you can sign up for email alerts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to keep tabs on all the recalls or on up to five specific cars. This will keep your family safe in your own car.

If you’re buying a car, check the vehicle history. Many car dealers offer free Carfax reports on their website. If the car lot doesn’t offer this service, ask for a Carfax report. Many will provide you with one. If that doesn’t work, explore other options or pay the money to buy one yourself.

While Carfax charges for a full vehicle history report, you can do a free recall check.

Don’t rely soley on a Carfax report. It’s only as good as the information feeding it. In my investigation, I found a computer issue with the data one manufacturer was sending Carfax. Click here to read about that part of the story.

You can also go to the manufacturer’s website to search for recalls. Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda offer free vehicle identification number (VIN) searches on their site. Other manufacturers require a login approval.

Another option is to search the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, Safercar.gov. You can’t search by VIN, but can search by make, model, and component. You shouldn’t rely on this as a primary source either, because some makes and models are recalled based on the VIN not the make or model.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) wants NHTSA to implement a centralized database that allows consumers to search by VIN. NHTSA bought the software program to make this happen, but told the GAO that it would need significantly more resources to implement the program.

While paperwork is a good resource, always back it up with a mechanical inspection. This will cost you less than $100, and many mechanics say it is a free service for good clients. The small investment can save you thousands of dollars.

Links you may like:
Ford Windstars recalled again
Recalled cars still on the road

New resource to report an unsafe product

Before you make your next big purchase for your child or yourself, you may want to consider more than just ratings on the product. There is a new database that gives you insight into safety complaints, but I didn’t find one parent who knew about the website and new disclosures.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched Saferproducts.gov today to give consumers the chance to file a complaint about a product or search complaints.  It’s a result of so many recalls on children’s products.

There were efforts by some lawmakers to cut off funding for the database, and manufacturers are concerned unverified complaints will publicly be displayed in the database.  The manufacturer will have a set amount of days to respond to the complaint, and their answer will be included.

The National Association of Manufacturers wanted the database to be delayed because they feel it will put an unreasonable burden on manufacturers.  “Makers of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), toys and other juvenile products estimate losses of more than $3 billion as a result of the CPSIA. Many of these products present little or no risk to the public,” NAM wrote in one policy paper in support of it’s position to delay the database.  There is also concern that the CPSC won’t have the resources to handle the influx of complaints to really sort through the legitimate and illegitimate ones.

As with any database, you need to qualify the comments you see. It’s not uncommon for me to find negative comments about a restaurant I love.  Restaurant comments are more subjective than the safety of a toy or product, but there is concern some subjectivity could taint the comments.  Is the wheel of a toy car really a hazard, or did one parent just think it was? Parents need to use this resource appropriately, and hopefully they will. Don’t start reporting every safety concern you may have. Report only legitimate concerns and situations.

If you search the database, read those comments with some caution.   As one parent told me, the comments are a good starting point to get the conversation going. As we’ve seen, it’s taken too long to get the conversation going on some toys and it’s caused injuries and death in children.

The government has other publicly available complaint databases including Safercar.gov. It’s a website run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and allows drivers to file complaints about cars. The difference between cars and toys is that there are a lot more toy manufacturers than car manufacturers.

While you may look at a product and think you know who made it, you need to be careful. For example, a Disney pop-up tent with Disney characters on it is not made by Disney. They license the use of their name and characters.  You need to look for the small tag on the product or check the bottom of the toy to find the manufacturer’s name.  That’s probably the only clue you’ll have since the big tag that’s attached to the toy when you buy it at the store will be gone by the time you have a problem.

What do you think about the new database? Do you think it will be a valuable resource? Click “Comment” below and share your thoughts.

Creepy crawler recall


Image via Wikipedia

I’ve covered a lot of recalls, but this is a first. A spider is the reason Mazda is recalling 2009-2010 Mazda6 cars.

Mazda says a spider may weave its web in a vent line connected to the fuel tank. This can lead to a crack in the fuel tank and possibly a fire.  An estimated 50,000 vehicles are effected.

Dealers will inspect the area in question and install a spring to prevent the certain type spider from entering the vent line.

I wish my recall were as simple. I’ve been waiting since August when the recall was announced for parts. At last check, the dealer still didn’t have them and the manufacturer hasn’t contacted me. Maybe I need to make ANOTHER follow-up call.

Two consumer changes caught in the crosshairs of debate

Seal of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Image via Wikipedia

Two new consumer rules that will transform two different industries are under attack. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will launch a public database in March with consumer complaints about products. The site, Safer Products,  is already taking complaints from parents in advance of the official launch. There is concern the data will be unverified and give anyone the ability to complain about anything.

A Kansas lawmaker told The New York Times, “I’m an engineer. I love data. But I know what people put online,” Mr. Pompeo said at a meeting of the House subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade last week. “I think this is a plaintiff’s bar dream.”

There is a disclaimer on the CPSC website warning consumers that the accuracy of complaints is not verified.

The validity of complaints is a concern on every website. Think of it simplistically — when you look at the customer comments under a restaurant listing you have to take them with a grain of salt.  I never think to review a restaurant online after eating there, but I probably should given the negative comments I see listed. I think it’s because it’s second nature for us to complain, but rarely do we pay people compliments. The complaints are always heard louder than the compliments.

Click here for the full article from The New York Times.

I wonder why there is so much debate about a product database when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publicly posts complaints about vehicle safety. The site, Safer Car, is a great resource to see what problems drivers are having with cars. I didn’t find a disclaimer on the site about the validity of the information. I only found remarks by NHTSA about how important the complaints are to safety defect investigations, and recalls.

If it works for one government agency, why can’t it work for another?   Perhaps it’s due to the nature of the product. A car is worth $10,000-20,000 whereas a product may be worth $10.  However, I think consumers are more inclined to research the $10,000 product than the $10 product. It will be interesting to see what happens with the product database less than a month from launch.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau funding debated
The other change is expected in July when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official opens for business. It’s already asking consumers for suggestions, as its still unclear what its role will be.  Today, there’s a post asking for comments on the CARD Act one year later that transformed the credit industry. The agency’s overall goal is to protect consumers in the financial industry.

Now, the agency’s funding is under attack.  CNN Money reports there are funding issues and talk of moving the agency to Treasury.  Click here to read the full story from CNN Money.

There’s more time to debate the future of this agency, as it’s official role won’t start until July. It’s been a controversial agency from the start, and I expect it will continue. A hearing is scheduled March 16th.

Related links you may like:
Consumer Outlook for 2011
New consumer agency wants your suggestions


Ford Windstars recalled again

1999-2000 Ford Windstar photographed in Colleg...

Image via Wikipedia

More troubling news for Ford Windstar owners, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford announce another recall. Certain model year  1999-2003 Windstar vans originally sold or currently registered in some cold weather states are part of the recall.  The recall will fix brackets and mounts in the front subframe that may separate and cause steering problems. Ford says it’s related to corrosion.

Ford already recalled 1998-2003 Ford Windstars over corrosion of the rear axle. The recall of these vehicles also included cold weather states. Yet, my investigation for NewsChannel 5 found these recalled cars are still on the road. Some owners who brought their cars into the dealer have been without their car since November, because parts are not available.  We found Windstars piled up on dealer lots waiting for parts.

Click here to watch the story on NewsChannel 5.

The states involved in the latest recall include Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In the latest recall, Ford will offer alternate transportation until parts become available if the car fails the safety inspection.

The recall is expected to begin on or before February 14th.

Some side air bags save lives – does yours?

Result of a serious automobile accident.

Image via Wikipedia

Do you have side air bags? They’re an option in newer vehicles. Having lost a sibling in a crash, it’s something I thought about after a hit and run accident totaled my car almost four years ago. However, they weren’t standard in the brand I bought at the time. I thought long and hard about spending the extra money, but I was in a pinch and needed a car. I didn’t have time to place an order, so I went without the side air bags. At the time, it was still unclear how much they helped in an accident. I wish I had more time to order the side air bags, especially now that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a report showing it helps your chance at surviving a side-impact crash if you buy a vehicle that performs well in side-impact crash tests.

The report says the driver is 70% less likely to die in a car rated “good” versus “poor” for driver protection in a side-impact crash.  A driver of a car rated “acceptable” is 64% less likely to die, and a driver in a car rated “marginal” is 49% less likely to die.

“This was our first look at how our ratings correlate with actual crash data since we started side tests in 2003, and the numbers confirm that these are meaningful ratings,” says Institute chief research officer David Zuby. “Vehicles with good side ratings provide occupants with far more protection than vehicles that do poorly in our test.”

According to the IIHS, side impact crashes accounted for 27% of deaths in cars in 2009.

Car manufacturers still have some work to do, but the side air bag design is improving. Of newer vehicle designs that IIHS tested, 78% faired “good” in the ratings. Only about a third  of those tested in the first two years achieved the same rating according to IIHS.

“We knew that our ratings would encourage manufacturers to add head-protecting side airbags, which would save lives,” Zuby says. “It’s great to see that other aspects of our evaluation, such as encouraging strong side structures, resulted in so much additional protection.”

Of course, air bags are not the only factor that will increase your chance at survival.  You need to wear your seatbelt, and front air bags help.

As I experienced, cars are designed to protect the driver. This study only analyzed the safety of the driver, but the IIHS’s published ratings take into account protection of the driver and a passenger in the back.

In many accidents, my sister’s included, it comes down to where you’re sitting and which seats can absorb the impact better than others based on how the car is hit. In my sister’s car, seating arrangement determined who lived and who died. It was as simple as that.

Side air bags won’t necessarily save your life, but this study shows they should be considered next time you’re in the market for a car. Just make sure you’re buying a car that fares well in the IIHS’s crash tests so you know you’re driving in a safe car.

Check ratings of your car

Guide to shopping for a new car

Recalled cars still on the road

2001-2003 Ford Windstar photographed in Colleg...

Image via Wikipedia

We have car recalls all the time, but the Ford Windstar recall is causing quite a headache for drivers. It’s the age of the car and the problem that creates a unique situation.

Ford announced the recall of 1998-2003 Ford Windstars in certain cold weather states in August due to corrosion of the rear axle. The repairs began in November, but they were limited in scope.  The vans are so old, Ford doesn’t have parts to fix the problem.

If your car doesn’t pass a safety inspection, you don’t go home with it. Instead, it sits on the dealer’s lot until parts are in stock. So, cars have been sitting on dealer lots for two months. The expected arrival of parts is early 2011, but dealers still don’t have a timeframe.

Ford is putting car owners into rental cars, and it’s likely costing them a fortune. But, it’s causing a headache that won’t go away for drivers and dealers.

While there are dozens of vans in most lots, ABC News reports only 15% of recalled cars have been brought into the dealer for inspection. We found a Northeast Ohio woman who didn’t realize it was such a serious issue until her axle snapped in half. She’s lucky that’s all that happened.

Click here to watch the story on NewsChannel 5