The Center for Auto Safety, a Washington, D.C. based consumer advocacy group, is pushing the federal government to keep vehicle safety defect records on file for a minimum of 20 years, up 15 years from Congress’ current minimum of 5 years.
CAS says the current 5 year limit is “woefully inadequate and outdated” and says that raising the minimum to 10 years, as is currently being proposed, would only be the “bare minimum.” It is therefore pushing for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be forced to hold onto vehicle safety defect records for at least 20 years, which it sees as necessary amid a record-high number of safety bulletins and vehicle recalls.
CAS offered two high-profile examples of why a 10-year limit would not be enough, one being General Motors‘ ignition switch recall and other being the Takata airbag recall – both of which were proven to be fatal flaws.
“For example, under a 10-year record retention policy, General Motors could have tossed out records related to the detent plunger change that resulted in hundreds of ignition switch related deaths and injuries, and Takata could have destroyed all records related to the design of exploding airbag inflators,” the non-profit said.
In other words, the longer NHTSA and automakers are forced to hold onto to vehicle defect records, the less chance there is that an automaker will attempt to cover up a potentially deadly design flaw. CAS also said that NHTSA ignores records that are older than 10 years old, despite some of these documents leading to recalls and investigations.
“The Center calls on NHTSA to extend the record retention period to a minimum of twenty years to ensure that the agency is able to effectively evaluate safety defects, whether they are in new or older vehicles, in order to properly support the agency’s recall and enforcement authority, and to help remove these dangers from America’s roads,” it concluded.