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From Products Liability Law Daily, January 22, 2016

NHTSA launches ‘Safe Cars Save Lives’ campaign, seeks comments on recall efficacy rulemaking

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

In light of the record number of motor vehicle recalls that occurred in 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a new public awareness campaign called Safe Cars Save Lives that urges consumers to check for open recalls at least twice a year and to get their vehicles fixed as soon as parts are available (NHTSA Press Release, NHTSA 01-16, January 21, 2016). In addition, the agency also issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that seeks to identify additional ways to notify vehicle owners, purchasers and dealers of safety-related defects and noncompliances. Comments on the ANPRM will be due 45 days after its publication in the Federal Register (NHTSA Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, January 21, 2016).

In announcing the new campaign during a keynote address at the Washington D.C. auto show, NHTSA Administrator Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D. noted that while a record number of recalls for a record number of vehicles were filed with NHTSA in 2014, the 2015 numbers set a new record. In the last year, there were close to 900 recalls affecting 51 million vehicles nationwide, slightly above 2014’s record. However, Rosekind added, every year, on average, 25 percent of recalled vehicles are left unrepaired. The Safe Cars Save Lives campaign “is a critical effort for building public awareness of recalls and is the first national campaign aimed at empowering vehicle owners,” Rosekind said.

Rosekind referenced the fact that NHTSA has made major efforts in the last year to improve our processes for identifying vehicle defects, noting that that effort will continue. Rosekind went on to state that he hoped the agreement with major automakers announced last week on Proactive Safety Principles (Statement of Secretary Foxx, January 15, 2016) would help prevent problems and identify them sooner when they do occur. Rosekind added, “But identifying defects is not enough; we have to make sure they get fixed.” Rosekind was hopeful that the agreement also would help will help make fixing all recalled vehicles a priority, regardless of who owns them.

The year-long Safe Cars Save Lives campaign will feature online banner ads illustrating that safety should never take a back seat and that checking for a recall could help save a life. Consumers are urged to get into the habit of checking their vehicle identification number (VIN) twice a year at a minimum using NHTSA’s free VIN look up tool. When cars are recalled in the United States, manufacturers provide the affected VINs to be loaded into the NHTSA database so consumers can search for open recalls. Owners are contacted directly by the manufacturers through the postal mail using a specially marked envelope to distinguish it from junk mail.

To remember to check, NHTSA suggested timing it with day light savings—every November when setting clocks back and every March when setting clocks forward. If there is an open recall, the safety agency advises owners to contact their local dealer to schedule an appointment and bring their vehicle in for repair as soon as possible. The recall awareness campaign also includes a suite of safety videos to help inform consumers on how to check their VINs, how recalls and investigations work, and information on what every car owner should know.

Advanced rulemaking. The ANPRM was issued in response to provisions in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which was passed in December 2015. Pursuant to MAP-21, NHTSA is authorized to amend, by regulation, the means used to issue recalls in a manner other than, or in addition to, first-class mail. The FAST Act expounds on the need to update the means of notification by requiring NHTSA to include notification by electronic means in addition to first class mail notification, within 270 days of its enactment. MAP-21 also authorizes the agency to improve the efficacy of recalls by requiring manufacturers to send additional notifications of defects or noncompliance if a second notification by the manufacturer does not result in an adequate number of motor vehicles or replacement equipment being returned for remedy.

NHTSA is seeking public comment on the means, in addition to first class mail, of providing notification to owners, purchasers, and dealers, by a manufacturer of a motor vehicle or replacement equipment, that the vehicle or equipment contains a defect related to motor vehicle safety or does not comply with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard. As a result of this ANPRM, NHTSA anticipates receiving information that will aid the Agency in developing a rule implementing the notification requirements under MAP-21 and the FAST Act.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews

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