House Democrats seek review of delayed U.S. auto safety rules

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WASHINGTON — Three senior Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday asked government auditors to study why U.S. auto safety regulators have failed to write dozens of new auto safety regulations.

The delayed rules include rear belt warnings, revisions to vehicle defect reporting requirements, child restraint side impact tests, requirements for automakers to e-mail recall notices and provisions that make it easier to install child safety seats. Many of the rules have been delayed by more than four years.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, along with U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Lisa Blunt Rochester, asked the Government Accountability Office to study the NHTSA research and rulemaking process “to identify factors contributing to delays.”

Under President Donald Trump, NHTSA has never had a Senate-confirmed administrator — the first time in history the agency has gone so long without a permanent head. It has been more than a year since the White House had a nominee pending.

In 2012 and 2015, Congress directed NHTSA to implement numerous safety mandates but lawmakers said “NHTSA has failed to implement nearly 20 congressionally mandated rulemakings, reports, and research initiatives by their statutory deadlines.”

A NHTSA spokesman did not immediately comment, but lawmakers said the agency told them it “initiates a rulemaking when it has sufficient data to do so.”

NHTSA has historically struggled to meet congressional deadlines to write new vehicle safety regulations and complete other reports.

In August, the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General said it would audit oversight of U.S. vehicle safety standards by NHTSA.

Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said NHTSA has “actively chosen to ignore the will of Congress for years when it comes to implementing safety laws, costing lives and money.”

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