Double Ding for Toyota

Toyota closes out 2010 by shelling out another $32.4 million to the government for tardiness. The two fines – for failing to recall its floor mats and defective relay rods within five days of determining a defect – were disclosed yesterday.

Three record fines in one year ain’t beanbag. In all three cases – the relay rods, the accelerator pedal and the floor mats – Toyota had recalled the affected vehicles overseas months before it got around to recalling those components here. It’s refreshing to see the agency enforce the law. But penalizing a manufacturer for failing to file a timely defect report only requires counting to five. The agency will greet 2011 with the much more complicated issue of unintended acceleration hanging in the balance. We’ll address that in a future post.

In the meantime, back to the fines. The details were MIA. NHTSA did not say when it thought Toyota had a duty to recall those components. Toyota didn’t admit it did anything wrong. Since the agency hasn’t made its case for the penalty to the public, the Safety Record Blog will do it for them.

Greater Than Axle Failure

When the Office of Defects Investigation finally opened a Preliminary Evaluation into rear axle failure in Windstar minivans, Ford Motor Company argued that the problem was no big deal. The fractures only struck a handful of vans in the Salt-Belt states. The vans were older and had significant mileage. The components had performed well, considering. Besides, Ford said, an axle failure while the vehicle was in motion would not result in a catastrophic crash:

“The preponderance of real world data suggests the vehicle remains controllable even in the event of a complete rear axle fracture. The vast majority (95%) of reports received by Ford alleging a cracked or completely fractured rear axle do not indicate any concern for loss of vehicle control. Additionally, some customers note that there was indication of an unusual symptom, such as changes in vehicle ride or noise while driving, for days or weeks before the axle fractured,” Ford wrote to ODI in July.

Round 437: No One Cares About Kids in Cars – Still

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board gathered all the government, industry and academic play-ahs in the board room of its headquarters to answer a question that’s been nagging safety advocates: Why doesn’t anyone give a damn about child safety in cars and planes?

The day-long meeting was meant to be a kick-off to the NTSB’s 2011 focus on child safety in airplanes and automobiles, with a special focus on increasing child restraint and seat belt use rates. Note to NTSB: you might want to allocate more time to this project – the lag in child safety regulation and industry practices has been the sad state of affairs for decades. Decades.

First up was the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency defended its practice of allowing children to fly without child safety restraints. Without a hint of irony, the FAA said that such a requirement would result in more people driving rather than flying, putting children at higher risk because the injury and fatality rates for children in motor vehicle crashes far surpasses that those in an airplane.

Are Rear Underride Guards Overrated?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know what you think about its latest technical report on the non-effectiveness of rear underride guards. The request for comments is part of a long, slow evaluation process of FMVSS 223 and 224, which require the underride guards meet a strength test on trailers with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds.

The standard has been in effect since 1998. In 2004, the agency announced that it would be evaluating the efficacy of these standards. The report, a statistical analysis of crash data from two states involving trucks with compliant underride guards found no statistically significant preventative effect. The agency looked at data from Florida and North Carolina and found decreases in fatalities and serious injuries to passenger vehicle occupants in a rear-end crash with a tractor-trailer.

A Better Way to Spot the Tot: Rear View Cameras!

Four years after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tried to take the public education route around the problem of backovers caused by vehicles with poor rearward visibility, the agency is proposing the first-ever safety standard to stem the flow of pedestrian injury and death.

Friday, NHTSA announced that it was a rearview visibility performance standard, specifying what the driver should be able to see, which would most likely compel automakers to install rear-mounted cameras and in-board vehicle displays in all new vehicles by 2014. The agency was rushing to meet a statutory February 28, 2011 deadline for a Final Rule.

No small measure of thanks is due to the persistence of Janette Fennell and her advocacy organization, KidsAndCars.org. Longtime activist Fennell began collecting data on backover injury and death more than a decade ago. At the time, NHTSA refused to acknowledge the problem because nearly all of the incidents occurred in private driveways rather than on public roads.

Product Safety Takes a Big Leap Forward

Just before Thanksgiving, a majority of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission gave consumers an early holiday present, approving a Final Rule that will establish a publicly accessible consumer product safety complaint database. For the first time since the commission was created, manufacturers will no longer control the flow of information about their products. By spring, consumers will be able to report their own complaints and research others via a web interface.

Tags: 

Categories

Archive Dates

Follow us on Twitter

Categories

Archive Dates

Follow us on Twitter