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Reporting dangerous auto defects

Motor vehicle recalls reached record highs in the past two years. Despite the increase, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to make it easier for consumers to report auto safety problems with their cars. The NHTSA has proposed a rule that would force automakers to place labels on the sun visors of new vehicles. These labels would include instructions to car owners on how to file safety complaints.

From consumer complaints to vehicle recalls

The NHTSA generally relies on consumer complaints to identify safety-related auto defects. It can take months or years for enough complaints to accumulate that the NHTSA launches an investigation. More complaints could speed the process of recalling dangerous auto products. The NHTSA is hoping that conveniently located labels will increase the percentage of problems that get reported. 

The impact of more complaints

Unfortunately, there is reason to doubt that more complaints will result in faster action. In 2015, the head of the NHTSA reported that the group was not thoroughly analyzing consumer complaints due to a shortage of qualified employees. The NHTSA has not received an increase in funding since that admission and is unlikely to receive one in the near future. An influx of complaints could prove meaningless if the Department of Transportation lacks the resources to analyze them and act on the safety issues they uncover.

Reporting dangerous defects

Even if the NHTSA gets its way, it will be a long time before safety labels on sun visors become the norm. In the mean time, it is important for safety advocates to help consumers understand how to report safety issues. If you or a loved one encounters a safety problem with your vehicle, inform the NHTSA online or call them at 1-888-327-4236. You can also check to see if your vehicle has been recalled and research safety ratings for vehicles, car seats, tires and other automotive products.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "NHTSA wants you to complain more about your car," by Tribune wire reports, 30 November 2016 

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