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Auto Safety Advocate Clarence Ditlow Dies

"A full-time citizen for motorists."

by on Nov.11, 2016

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, was a leading advocate for automotive safety issues.

Clarence Ditlow, one America’s leading auto safety advocates, died after a prolonged battle with colon cancer. He was 72.

Along with the better-known safety advocate Ralph Nader, perhaps no one did more to shift the automotive industry’s mindset which, for many decades argued that “safety doesn’t sell.” Today, automakers routinely promote their latest safety technologies and Ditlow, to some, could claim credit for savings thousands of American lives over the years.

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“Spanning four decades, his work forced the auto industry to make vast improvements in the safety, reliability and fuel efficiency of the vehicles on which Americans depend daily,” the Center for Auto Safety said in a statement.


Feds Expecting Pushback on New Autonomous Vehicle Rules

Despite advocates’ claims, some question safety of self-driving vehicles.

by on Apr.07, 2016

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosakind is an advocate for autonomous vehicles, believing they can improve safety on U.S roadways.

With the first semi-autonomous vehicles already on the road, industry watchers suggest fully self-driving vehicles could start rolling into showrooms by 2020, perhaps even sooner. But there are some key obstacles in the way, and not all of them are technological.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hopes to address one of the most significant roadblocks by introducing new federal guidelines overseeing development of automated vehicles, and it will hold a first public hearing on Friday.

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NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind has suggested that the use of autonomous vehicles could eventually eliminate highway deaths in the U.S., and wants the agency to help promote development of the technology. But there are plenty of skeptics who plan to attend this week’s meeting, including some safety experts who want to slow the process down. (more…)

Safety Watchdog Lobbies for New Warnings for Child Seats

Center for Auto Safety thinks safest spot is behind open seat.

by on Mar.10, 2016

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, wants changes in where parents to instructed to put child safety seats in vehicles.

Officials at auto safety advocacy group the Center for Auto Safety are taking federal regulators to task for not providing parents with more detailed information about the safest spot in a vehicle for a child.

The group filed a petition this week imploring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide information about where specifically to put a child in a vehicle.

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Officials “encourage parents to place their children in the rear seats of passenger cars without providing parents any recommendation on where in the rear seat the child should be placed,” Clarence Ditlow, executive director, wrote in his petition. (more…)

Hidden Killers? What Happens When Airbags Age?

Federal regulators worried that safety systems could fail -- or worse -- on older vehicles.

by on Jul.21, 2015

A Takata airbag after a crash. The supplier hasn't been able to pinpoint the problem causing the airbags to explode.

© 2015

They’ve been called one of the most important safety technologies ever developed, but there’s growing concern that as airbags age they could become a major threat to the safety of millions of American motorists.

Nearly a dozen different automakers have so far recalled more than 40 million vehicles around the world due to faulty airbags produced by Japan’s Takata Corp. that have been blamed for at least eight deaths and 100s of injuries. But as NHTSA launches an investigation into the supplemental restraint system provided by a second supplier, the nation’s top automotive safety regulator told that he’s worried the problem could be far more widespread.

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“Cars are lasting on the road a lot longer than ever before,” said Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during a visit to Detroit. “Is aging now an issue? That’s part of the investigation going on.”

And it’s taking on increased urgency as automotive regulators, safety advocates and industry officials begin to question whether a technology designed to save lives can, over time, become a threat to life and limb.


Lawmakers May Bar Registration of Vehicles Not Repaired After Recalls

Vehicle owners reticent to get fixes completed.

by on Nov.24, 2014

Despite dominating the headlines, owners of vehicles with Takata airbags are likely to ignore recall notices that could save lives.

Recalls have hit an all-time high this year, so far totaling nearly 54 million vehicles. But even as daily headlines outline the risks of deadly defects like the General Motors ignition switch problem and Takata’s faulty airbags, millions of those vehicles will never get repaired, according to industry analysts.

With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stymied – even after pressing automakers to increase contact with owners of vehicles impacted by recalls – federal lawmakers may soon step in. One approach under study would bar motorists from registering vehicles that have not undergone repairs.

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Automakers, who have found it difficult to recall compliance rates much beyond 75% to 80% appear to be warming to the idea. (more…)

Honda May Have Underreported Injuries, Deaths to NHTSA

Automaker hires outside firm to review reports.

by on Oct.17, 2014

Honda may have underreported the number of deaths and injuries related to a defective airbag problem.

With outside pressure mounting, Honda announced it hired an outside firm to determine if it has underreported fatality and injury claims to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The audit of the Japanese maker began last month after the Center for Auto Safety, a safety watchdog group, accused the company of failing to file Early Warning Reports (EWR) for one death and one injury with NHTSA and demanded an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. The group suggests that those two incidents are indicative of a broader pattern.

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“Examination of EWR reports filed by Honda versus GM and Toyota suggest that Honda is systematically under reporting Death and Injury claims against the company,” Clarence Ditlow, the group’s executive director, wrote in the letter to the agency earlier this week. (more…)

Chrysler Recalling Nearly 1 Million Vehicles

Maker still plagued by ongoing fuel pump problem.

by on Oct.16, 2014

Scott Kunselman heads up Chrysler's recently formed Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance office.

Chrysler Group’s announcement today it is recalling 907,000 vehicles in two new campaigns is latest in a steady string of actions during the last six weeks from the Auburn Hills, Michigan-unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The recalls involve faulty alternators and power mirror electrical connectors. There have been no injuries, fatalities or accidents as a result of either problem, according to the automaker.

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Chrysler is recalling 470,000 2011-2014 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Challenger, Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles with a 3.6-liter engine and a 160 amp alternator because the alternator may suddenly fail and result in vehicle shutdown, shutoff or a fire. (more…)

NHTSA Failing to Meet Its Own Deadlines

Critics say delaying probes means more injuries, deaths.

by on Aug.11, 2014

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, wants changes in how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration handles petitions.

It appears it’s not just U.S. automakers that drag their feet when it comes to investigating potential problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration often fails to meet its own deadlines for responding to complaints.

Fifteen drivers have filed petitions with the federal agency, also known as NHTSA, since 2010 and it missed the legal deadline to grant or deny the investigation requests 12 times, including a 2012 request, which is not yet to be resolved, according to the Associated Press.

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By law, the agency is required to approve or deny a request for an inquiry in four months. There are no penalties for missing the deadline. (more…)

Feds Push for New Laws to Speed Recalls, Raise Fines

by on Jul.21, 2014

GM's failure to recall a faulty ignition switch sooner is generating a wave of effort to change the rules about automotive safety.

A record-setting year for recalls and high-profile problems with General Motors and Toyota are mixing together to create a cauldron of proposed laws aimed at making automakers be accountable or pay up in a significant way.

In fact, some members of Congress and the Obama administration are pushing for changes that would force automakers to move more quickly to report potential problems and dramatically stiffen the penalties for attempting to skirt those rules.

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When General Motors admitted to wrongdoing in the handling of its faulty ignition switch, it received a record fine of $35 million from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The previous high was $17.5 million paid by Toyota related to its unintended acceleration problems. That figure was doubled to the current level in 2012. (more…)

Is Your Car Concealing a Deadly Defect?

A quarter of all owners never get recall repairs completed.

by on Jun.23, 2014

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, notes there is no such thing as a small or minor recall.

The numbers have been adding up fast. Just since the beginning of this month, Japan’s five largest automakers have recalled nearly 6 million vehicles due to airbag problems. General Motors has staged more than three dozen recalls since the beginning of the year for all manner of issues impacting 20 million vehicles worldwide, nearly 18 million in the U.S. alone.

At the current pace, industry analysts anticipate the industry will soon exceed not only last year’s total of 27.96 million vehicles covered by safety-related recalls, but also the 33.01 million peak set in 2004.

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Yet – or perhaps because of – the fast clip of announcements, there’s concern that millions of those vehicles will never be repaired. According to data tracked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average one of every four vehicles covered by a safety recall will never be fixed. (more…)