Recent news stories such as GM’s recall of 1.6 million cars with faulty ignition switches, and Toyota’s “$1.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice last week for misleading customers about the company’s response to cases of unintended acceleration” have put auto safety at the forefront of Washington’s mind. As of March 25th two U.S. senators proposed a bill which would make it easier for lawyers, safety advocates, and citizens to access “early warning reports.” These early warning reports must be submitted by auto companies to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The purpose of these reports are to inform the NHTSA of any warning signs that could lead to potential crashes or deaths. In the past companies like GM have submitted early warning reports of their faulty ignition switches, yet no formal investigation was done by the NHTSA. Due to our current laws, if there is no investigation then the reports die there. No one has accesses to the information. If all citizens have access to these reports the hope is to have a better informed consumer and allow for transparency amongst the automakers to ensure auto-safety.
One parallel that can be drawn between this situation and our class discussion is the Ralph Nader incident. Auto-makers knew of the possibility that the compact car would easily spin out and possibly flip, yet they did nothing. The auto-makers were not required to release this information and it was not until Ralph Nader prodded for the information that the truth came out. This situation also relates to the concept that disasters provoke action. A common theme amongst the Ralph Nader, Santa Barbara Oil spill, and GM recall situations is that action was not taken until a disaster occurred. Will the same type of disaster be needed to deal the destruction of our environment? If these past crisis are any indication, then I think yes.