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What is the NHTSA?

Passed by the United States Congress in 1966, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act grants the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the legal power to create and enforce automobile safety standards. As part of the Department of Transportation, the NHTSA also requires automobile manufacturers to recall vehicles that do not meet federal safety standards or possess defects that compromise the safety of drivers and passengers. Since the passage of the landmark auto safety legislation, the NHTSA has approved recalls for nearly 400 million cars, trucks, SUVs, buses, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles.

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NHTSA approved recalls

Auto Manufacturer Legal Obligations

Automakers operating within the United States have the power to voluntarily recall defective vehicles and vehicle parts. Voluntary recalls decrease the potential for lawsuits filed by plaintiffs seeking financial compensation for the pain and suffering caused by auto manufacturer negligence. Whenever an automaker discovers a safety defect, the company must alert the NHTSA about the defect, as well as communicate with automobile owners, dealers, and distributors. Auto manufacturers must also fix the safety issue, without requiring auto owners to cover repair costs.

The NHTSA influences many vehicle recalls by conducting investigations or requesting recalls by filing lawsuits in federal courts. Under vehicle safety law, the NHTSA has the legal responsibility to monitor the remedial actions implemented by automakers to end recalls.

Overview of Federal Vehicle Recall Investigations

The Department of Transportation creates the minimum performance standards for vehicle parts that directly affect the safe operation of motor vehicles and prevents drivers and passengers from suffering death and serious injury. Federal vehicle safety standards apply to every automobile manufactured or imported for sale within the United States. Qualifying vehicles must be certified to operate on American roads and highways.

Safety Defect Defined

Title 49, Chapter 301 of the United States Code of Motor Vehicle Safety defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.” According to federal vehicle safety regulations, a motor vehicle defect negatively affects vehicle performance and produces a risk to the safety of drivers and passengers. A motor vehicle defect can occur in vehicle groups designed by the same manufacturer or vehicle parts constructed by the same manufacturer.

Here are some examples of motor vehicle defects as set forth under United States motor vehicle safety regulations:

How to Report a Vehicle Safety Issue

The first step to correct a vehicle defect involves contacting the NHTSA to report the safety problem. If the NHTSA receives numerous similar reports from motor vehicle owners, the agency launches an investigation to determine the cause and more important, the legally liable manufacturer that created the vehicle safety issue. Motor vehicle owners have three options for filing automobile defect complaints with the NHTSA. The quickest option for motor vehicle owners is to call the NHTSA vehicle safety hotline toll free at 1-888-327-4236 or 1-800-424-9393.

If you are a motor vehicle owner who experienced an excessive number or repairs or owns a motor vehicle operating unsafely, contact the NHTSA immediately. Motor vehicle owners who need legal advice concerning an automobile defect should contact a licensed product safety attorney to schedule a free initial consultation.

Report defective newer model motor vehicles under warranties here

Contact NHTSA
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Product Safety Lawyer
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