NHTSA pressures automakers to create ‘proactive safety culture’

NHTSA pressures automakers to create ‘proactive safety culture’

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has renewed its push for a “proactive safety culture” among automakers.

In a lengthy statement, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind has argued that the “era of Big Recall” is not a sign of progress but rather an indication of ongoing safety problems that permeate the industry.

General Motors’ ignition-switch debacle finally began to recede from the headlines in 2015, only to be replaced by high-profile enforcement actions against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda, Takata and other industry players. The NHTSA has pursued legal action against companies for mishandling recalls, insufficient communication and failing to submit death and injury reports, among other issues.

“Folks, if we’re levying a big fine, it means there has been a safety crisis. Americans have been put at risk. Too often, it means American lives have been lost,” Rosekind said. “NHTSA is truly successful not when we catch safety violations and wrongdoing and hand down penalties, but when we work together with industry to prevent that kind of crisis from ever occurring.”

The agency has highlighted several examples of proactive safety initiatives in the auto industry. Rosekind praised AutoNation for voluntarily promising to fix recalled vehicles in its used-car inventory, implementing a policy not yet required by law. In another case, 10 automakers agreed to implement automatic emergency braking as a standard feature in new vehicles.

“The companies, rather than waiting for a federal mandate, committed to working with NHTSA and IIHS to work out the details of implementing that commitment,” Rosekind said. “A number of additional manufacturers have expressed interest in joining the process, and I am optimistic that soon, we will be able to announce timelines and other details that will bring AEB to Americans in large numbers before NHTSA could accomplish that progress through a rulemaking requirement.”

The comments did not address several criticisms aimed at the NHTSA this year, including the agency’s slow pace of implementing new regulations for emerging technologies. Rosekind and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx are expected to outline several programs later this week to address such issues, however, including initiatives to help fast-track autonomous vehicle development.

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