Nitpicking NHTSA

On the homepage of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this morning, there is a scroll of four presumably important public notifications as they take pride of place on the page.

On the homepage of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this morning, there is a scroll of four presumably important public notifications as they take pride of place on the page. One of them is about the ongoing “Click It or Ticket” initiative, which tells people that they ought to buckle up or get ready to pull out their purses. Another is about the all-too-frequent and dangerous practices that lead to what is known as “distracted driving,” be it texting or shaving or whatever. You might think you can multitask. You can’t. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 60, dexterous or experienced. You can’t. If you are driving, drive. End of.

Oddly, the other two items are somewhat more vintage. One is headlined “NHTSA’s Advice to Toyota Customers.” It goes back to February. It suggests they call Toyota. They even provide the number for “Toyota’s North American headquarters: 800-331-4331.” Swell. If they own a Toyota model that has been widely proclaimed as being problematic and possibly dangerous and haven’t done that yet, doesn’t that make you wonder a little?

The second item that is a bit unusual is a little more recent, going back to mid-April. There is a picture of a guy next to the text that appears as though it was taken surreptitiously. The only way I could figure out who it was was by putting my mouse over the image and it was, fortunately, tagged with a name. You try it:

l

Yes, that’s U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The piece is headlined “Toyota Pays $16.375 Million Civil Penalty.” That was announced April 19. Sure, that’s the biggest penalty that has ever been imposed by the feds on a vehicle manufacturer, but you would imagine that between now and then they’d have something to post on their webpage.

The reason I was on the page was because I’d heard something about another problem with floor mats. This time it is Ford.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is warning owners of 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan vehicles not to place any unsecured floor mats, whether made by Ford or any after-market retailer, on top of the standard, carpeted floor mat in the driver’s side foot well. In addition, all owners of these vehicles should ensure that nay mat used is properly secured and never stacked.”

I submit that if you have any car or truck that you shouldn’t stack the mats. Period.

“The safety agency is opening a formal investigation to examine allegations of the pedals becoming trapped in the depressed position after the driver releases the pedal to decelerate.” To that point in the news release there was no indication of what “pedals” they’re talking about. It’s the accelerator.

“NHTSA has received no complaints involving crashes, injuries or fatalities. Investigators have spoken with consumers and conducted pre-investigatory field work.”

According to NHTSA, the agency has “verified three consumer complaints.”

The news release was put out on Friday, May 28, the day before the start of the long Memorial Day weekend. Sort of a black hole vis-à-vis news.

And maybe this is just a matter of boiler plate on the bottom of releases, but there is a bullet-pointed list headed “Actions Consumers Can Take If They Cannot Stop Their Vehicles” that ends:

--Call you dealer or repair shop to pick up the vehicle. Do not drive it.

So should we assume that unstacking the mats is all that is required? Should we further assume that there are no “ghosts” in the braking system?

Did we mention Toyota paid a fine of $16.375-million?

Final line: “For more information, consumers can contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Hotline at 888-327-4236 or their Ford dealer.”

You’ll have to look up the number yourself.