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Identifying and Investigating Vehicle Safety Defects

Testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
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The Inspector General testified on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) efforts to identify and investigate vehicle safety defects. The Inspector General focused on the status of NHTSA’s actions to address major weaknesses that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported in 2011. The Inspector General noted that, in response to OIG recommendations, NHTSA has implemented more robust processes to identify and investigate safety defects. However, the effectiveness of these process enhancements will depend on whether NHTSA’s Office of Defects Identification (ODI) systematically uses and applies the new processes when conducting its analyses and investigations. The Inspector General also noted that NHTSA has yet to complete a workforce assessment for determining the number and most effective mix of ODI staff. Finally, the Inspector General discussed how OIG’s investigative efforts can help lead to strong sanctions against companies that withhold critical safety data from NHTSA. Most recently, OIG investigators participated in the criminal probe of Toyota, which forfeited $1.2 billion for intentionally concealing information on vehicle defects from NHTSA.