Report: Government May Beef Up Auto Safety Agency

Posted: Feb 05, 2010 10:24 a.m.

After a week when auto safety concerns have dominated news coverage, some are starting to ask whether the federal government has devoted enough resources to enforcing car safety regulations.  The Obama administration plans to increase the size of the federal agency devoted to auto safety.

The Detroit News reports, “President Barack Obama will increase the number of employees at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by 10 percent under his budget proposal.”  The additional funds would allow a fifteen percent increase in the number of auto safety investigators, “including eight enforcement personnel to work on auto recall and safety investigations.”

NHTSA, the Washington Post reports, “Has long relied on automakers to help identify perils posed by the cars they make.”  Critics say, however, that “the reliance on automakers' cooperation, however, might have diminished drivers' say in the safety review process. During agency reviews, officials have at times minimized or simply rejected consumer accounts of what happened in favor of the manufacturers' assessments, records show.”

The move to beef up the agency would not build the largest NHTSA workforce ever.  Instead, it would help restore the agency to its former size.  The News notes, “Adjusted for inflation, NHTSA's enforcement has been cut dramatically over the last decade.”

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