Public Citizen | TheDetroitBureau.com
Detroit Bureau on Twitter

Posts Tagged ‘Public Citizen’

Critics Demand Barra Come Clean about Ignition Decisions

Open letter calls for full disclosure by GM’s CEO.

by on Apr.17, 2014

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Automotive Safety, penned a letter with Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen, demanding GM CEO Mary Barra be transparent about the decision-making process that produced the faulty ignition switches in its small cars.

General Motors executives knew much more about the design flaw in the ignition switch installed in its small cars during the past decade much earlier than GM has officially acknowledged, according to two long-standing critics of the auto industry’s efforts at automotive safety.

In an open letter to GM CEO Mary Barra, Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen, and Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said it was time GM came clean about how and when the decisions were made to use the cheaper ignition switch and to replace them half a decade later without changing the part number or notifying federal regulators, which could have triggered a recall by GM.

On Top of the News!

GM had no immediate comment on the Claybrook-Ditlow letter. (more…)

Loopholes in Proposed CAFE Rules Under Attack

As gas prices rise, Public Citizen criticizes industry credits.

by on Oct.22, 2009

As always, the devil will be in the final rule details after lobbyists shape the regulations.

As always, the devil will be in the final rule details after lobbyists shape the regulations.

“The auto industry must not be allowed to compromise The Obama administration’s fuel economy, and greenhouse gas standards,” says Lena Pons, Policy Analyst of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division.

Under the proposal, which was announced with great political fanfare last September, automakers would have to raise the average gas mileage across their fleets to 35.5 miles per gallon and reduce carbon dioxide to 250 grams per mile by 2016.

The exact regulations that would put this in effect are now part of a complex rulemaking process at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is expected to go on until next spring.

No Loopholes!

No Loopholes!

Therein lays the controversy, as lobbyists for the industry seek special exemptions for vehicles that will undermine the intent of the program. Pons says that the proposal must be improved before it is finalized because it offers auto manufacturers too many opportunities to evade proposed fuel economy gains.

(more…)

Ford Owned Volvo Tows Line on Cell Phone Use

The Swedish company renowned for auto safety ignores a key aspect in the cell phone use while driving debate.

by on Sep.29, 2009

There's good reason the National Safety Councile wants a total ban on driving and cell phone use.

The National Safety Council wants a total ban on driving and any kind of cell phone use.

Volvo Cars of North America, LLC, (VCNA) is placing full-page ads tomorrow in issues of USA Today and The Washington Post that call for distracted driving legislation.

Publicly taking a position on the need for legislation is apparently a first for Volvo, and the company chose to do so as the Department of Transportation’s “Distracted Driving Summit” in Washington, D.C., which opens tomorrow.

It is indicative of the high stakes and high profits that potentially are on the line if the government bans the use of electronic devices in cars, including phones, moving maps, Blackberries and video players, among others.

The advertisements apparently attempt to change the subject from the dangers of any kind of cell phone use while driving to a position that hand-free cell phone use while driving is safe.

Peer reviewed scientific studies say that it is the cognitive engagement while using either a hands-free or a hand-held cell phone that is the dangerous distraction.

The issue is not the type of phone a driver uses, rather it is the mental distraction caused by the conversation itself. That’s the reason earlier this year the National Safety Council urged a total ban on using cell phones while driving after conducting further studies that confirmed previous research on just how dangerous cell phones are.

NSC said cell phone use while driving contributes to 6% of crashes, or 636,000 wrecks, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, and 2,600 deaths each year. NSC estimates the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion.

Simply put cell phone use is as dangerous as drunken driving.

Volvo and Ford Motor Company, along with virtually all other automakers are attempting to preserve hands-free cell phone use, which they enable with optional or standard equipment telematic devices that allow an increasing array of electronics to be used during driving.

We Concentrate on Driving!

We Concentrate on Driving!

Such scientific studies are likely to be contested tomorrow at the Distracted Driving Summit as powerful and wealthy vested interests attempt to protect the increasing sale of electronic devices that are leading to an “epidemic of distracted during,” in the words of Republican Ray LaHood, who heads the Department of Transportation. As DOT head, LaHood also has charge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is supposed to protect people from unsafe vehicles, driving conditions and practices.

(more…)

Cell Phone Use Showdown Coming at Distracted Driving Summit Next Week in Washington

Automakers are enabling deadly driving behaviors with an increasing array of profitable electronic options.

by on Sep.23, 2009

The National Safety Councile wants a total ban on driving and cell phone use.

The National Safety Council wants a total ban on driving and any type of cell phone use.

Next week when the Distracted Driving Summit called for by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood opens, the debate will intensify around what to do about a growing public safety problem – the role of electronic devices in an increasing number of auto accidents.

Almost 42,000 lives are lost annually on U.S. Highways. And traffic crashes are the primary cause of incapacitating injuries, as well as the number one killer of Americans under the age of 34. In addition to staggering psychological costs, the annual economic loss to society because of these crashes, defined by lost worker productivity, medical costs, and insurance costs, among others, is estimated at more than $150 billion. No one seriously debates that there is a need for an improvement in motor vehicle safety.

Getting unsafe vehicles off the road is now broadly recognized as common sense more than forty years after the Senate  conducted hearings that led to auto safety legislation in 1967, which automakers fought all the way. Now a new deadly threat is emerging from the practices of automakers and sellers of electronic devices. No surprise given the history, automakers are once again fighting rules that could potentially eliminate a substantial number of accidents.

Driver inattention is a leading cause of traffic crashes, responsible for about 80% of all collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Moreover, leading the way in this lack of visual and cognitive attention is cell phone use – either hand-held or hands-free. With more than 100 million people each day practicing dangerous distracted driving behavior, the fatalities and accidents such behavior causes is growing. There is also the growing use of in-vehicle telematics and “infotainment systems” that clearly distract drivers.

Particularly dangerous is the widespread use of cell phones. The issue is not the type of phone a driver uses, rather it is the mental distraction caused by the conversation itself. That’s the reason earlier this year the National Safety Council urged a total ban on using cell phones while driving after conducting further studies that confirmed previous research on just how dangerous cell phones are.

NSC said cell phone use while driving contributes to 6% of crashes, or 636,000 wrecks, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, and 2,600 deaths each year. NSC estimates the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion. Simply put cell phone use is as dangerous as drunken driving.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association of 11 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen, contends that hands-free phones are safe – but can supply no studies to support that assertion.

Telephone conversation impairs sustained visual attention

We Pay Attention!

We Pay Attention!

The problem with such an obviously self-serving position is that recent peer-reviewed research shows that holding telephone conversations disrupts one’s driving ability in a way similar to drunken driving. (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 2008, 15 (6), 1135-1140 doi:10.3758/PBR.15.6.1135)

(more…)

Crucial “Clunkers” Data Sought by Public Citizen

It files a Freedom of Information Act request for specifics.

by on Aug.05, 2009

U.S. Capital WADC

The public should have access to the details of the program so it can assess whether taxpayer money is being spent well, says Public Citizen.

Public Citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request yesterday for information that it says is needed to assess whether the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or “cash-for-clunkers” program is actually working.

The Washington-based pressure group made the request claiming the Obama administration “has not been forthcoming with key information” just as Republicans in the Senate appeared to be dropping opposition to a proposed $2 billion extension of the popular program.

At the center of the controversy is a lack of agreement about the goals clunkers purports to accomplish: a general business stimulus and taxpayer bailout of car dealers and automakers, or a clean air initiative that will reduce emissions and decrease fuel consumption. All of those arguments were put forth since the proposed legislation appeared last January.

“The public should have access to the details of the program so it can assess whether taxpayer money is being spent well and whether the program is truly helping curb auto emissions,” said Lena Pons, policy analyst for Public Citizen. “If the program is as successful as the administration claims, then releasing the information should only strengthen its case.”

After the Department of Transportation announced that its initial $1 billion in funding had been spent after just one week, the House of Representatives approved another $2 billion in funding. Critics claim that the $1 billion spent was derived from early reports from auto dealers and has not yet been verified by NHTSA. The Senate should get more information before voting to approve this additional $2 billion in funding, Pons said.

(more…)

Department of Hypocrisy: Senate Bill on Texting While Driving Ignores the Original Core Issue.

Safety policy needs to address widespread cell phone use as well as other electronic devices automakers are promoting.

by on Aug.03, 2009

Senator Charles Schumer Taxpayer Financed Portrait

This anti-texting movement fails to address the core issue -- cell phone use.

As the debate about the national safety problem cause by distracted drivers using electronic devices heats up, the government agency responsible for traffic safety has come under attack for suppressing studies showing just how bad the problem is, and, worse, for bowing to Congressional pressure not to pursue regulations that would save lives. 

In a joint press release, Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety said that since 2003, the government has known that drivers talking on their cell phones experience the same potentially deadly distraction whether they are using a handheld device or hands-free technology. The pressure groups made the accusations after a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act obtained internal documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“By keeping this information secret from the public for the past six years, the government has endangered even more lives, the groups said. Cities and states across the country have passed laws and ordinances requiring drivers to use hands-free phones, mistakenly believing those devices to be safe and encouraging drivers to use them.”

The suppressed evidence and opinions by safety experts advising NHTSA have since been confirmed by numerous independent studies.

With more than 100 million people each day practicing dangerous distracted driving behavior, the fatalities and accidents causes are growing to proportions far greater than the few swine flu deaths that caused a public uproar. Particularly dangerous is the widespread use of cell phones. The issue is not the type of phone a driver uses, rather it is the distraction caused by the conversation itself. That’s the reason the National Safety Council urged a total ban on using cell phones while driving earlier this year after conducting further studies that confirmed previous research on just how dangerous they are.

(more…)