Senate Holds Hearing on Roof Strength; NHTSA Grilled on Pre-emption

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The chairman of the Senate Consumer Affairs, Insurance and Automotive sub-committee has urged the Secretary of Transportation to extend the July 1 deadline for a final roof crush rule and to drop the pre-emption clause from the regulation.

After Long Delay, NHTSA Issues Advisory Addressing Tire Aging

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Eight years after the Explorer/Firestone rollovers pushed the problems of tire aging to the fore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued its first consumer advisory that addressed the dangers of aged tires.

On June 2, NHTSA released the advisory as a kick-off the summer driving season. The all-purpose warning for motorists to check their tires - including the spare - for signs of wear, under-inflation and age, was an important public acknowledgement of a safety hazard the agency has long understood. While NHTSA's Consumer Advisory did not define any tire age limit, it did refer to vehicle and tire makers age recommendations.

Fatal Rollover Prompts Probe into Chinese-Made Tire Valve Stems: Safety Groups Urge Consumers to Have Tires Checked

June 19: Dill Air Controls added a bulletin to their website with instructions for inspecting valve stems.

ORLANDO, FLA -- Safety advocates are urging motorists to inspect their valve stems for cracks and to check their tire pressure in the wake of one distributor's recall of defective valve stems made in China by Shanghai Baolong Industries Co. and a federal probe into premature cracking prompted by a fatal rollover crash.

As many as 30 million replacement rubber valves stems, imported to the U.S. from China beginning in August 2006, can crack prematurely, causing tires to lose air. Air loss at highway speeds may result in a tire failure and loss-of-control crash. (The valve stem is a rubber tube with a metal valve used to inflate the tire with air.)

NHTSA Proposes Upgrades to School Bus Regulations; Big Yellow Buses Get another Pass on Three-Point Belts

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Five years after it issued a comprehensive report on its school bus safety research, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to propose a requirement that three-point seatbelts be installed in full-size school buses - which agency research has shown to provide better occupant protection than lap belts or compartmentalization alone - because its is too expensive to implement, it said.

Instead, the agency is proposing to require shoulder/lap belts on small buses, to improve compartmentalization on large school buses and to establish lap/shoulder belt requirements for districts that wish to install them voluntarily.

U.S. Views on Auto Safety are Schizophrenic

NOTE: The following article was published in Auto Monitor, August 16-31, 2007. Auto Monitor is India's largest auto industry trade news publication

It's difficult to find an advertisement for a vehicle in the U.S. that doesn't include safety claims. Multiple airbags, Electronic Stability Control, an alphabet soup of indecipherable acronyms, along with the prerequisite government five-star ratings - all seemingly indicate we are at the pinnacle of safety in America. Despite all of this hype, U.S. views on auto safety are schizophrenic: We allow our crash safety regulations, many of which were written decades ago, to significantly lag behind state-of-the-art and meanwhile more than 42,000 deaths that occurred on America's roads last year are given scant notice.

NHTSA Document and Data Secrecy and Accessibility

Withholding critical data, the erosion of public accessibility to public information, the neglect of government documents-these have been the hallmarks of the Bush administration. Secrecy-in all of its forms-has been a prominent feature of the continuing stream of scandals out of Washington, D.C.  Most have centered on national security, but lately, administration appointees have thrown a cloak of secrecy over motor vehicle safety information. The effect will likely be felt for many years to come.

In the following three stories, which were published in SRS' The Safety Record (V2, Issue 4 March / April 2007), Safety Research & Strategies examines data secrecy, the new limits on public accessibility to important NHTSA documents, and the neglect of historical data sources.  Alone, these issues are significant. Combined, they have potentially devastating effect on the future of safety regulation and defect trend detection and remediation.

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