Motorists at risk as shutdown impacts NHTSA recall operations

The recent federal government shutdown has affected some Americans dramatically and others in very minor ways. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that every American who travels by motor vehicle is at an elevated risk of accidents as a direct result of the gridlock in Congress.

Due to the shutdown, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been forced to stop issuing auto safety recalls. Given that recalls are a critical tool in the prevention of motor vehicle accidents, the American public is now at greater risk of being involved in otherwise preventable collisions.

One former head of the NHTSA recently emphasized that “safety is being undermined. If unsafe cars are on the highway, if the agency isn’t operating so it can’t put out consumer alerts, if it can’t finish up a recall notice that it wants to publish or negotiate with an auto company… that puts the public at risk.”

Although drivers may continue to file reports about various defects and dangers affecting their vehicles, the NHTSA will not be able to process these claims until the government reopens. Given that the agency initiates an average of roughly two auto safety recalls daily, this is a serious disruption in public safety administration.

Hopefully the government will be reopened within the next few days. Until that time, it is even more important than usual that drivers have any issues with their vehicles properly inspected by a qualified mechanic. If a defect becomes apparent, motorists can file claims with the NHTSA to be reviewed as soon as the agency’s doors are open again.

Source: International Business Times, “Government Shutdown 2013: Auto Recalls Halted Due To Furloughed NHTSA Employees, Public At Risk, Says Safety Advocates,” Rebecka Schumann, Oct. 10, 2013