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Former NHTSA Lawyer: Agency Was 'Extremely Skeptical' of Sudden Acceleration Complaints

On Monday we reported on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's funding situation. Turns out, funding may not be the agency's only issue. Bloomberg has a piece about sudden unintended acceleration complaints, suggesting that such complaints may not have been taken seriously by the auto regulators:

According to data compiled by Bloomberg News, the average time NHTSA spent investigating reports of unintended acceleration dropped in each of the past three decades. Agency probes of the issue averaged 221 days before 1990, 196 days from 1990 to 2000 and 161 days in the past decade . . .

. . . NHTSA’s approach to unintended acceleration was shaped by a 1989 report the agency employees prepared on the issue, before electronic systems that now guide most automotive functions were common, former staff members say. The study, prompted by complaints of uncontrolled acceleration in Audi 5000 sedans, concluded that human error was often the cause, in Audi and other vehicles.

“That report was given a lot of weight” by NHTSA defect investigators, said Allan Kam, former NHTSA senior enforcement attorney, who retired in 2000 after 25 years. “They regarded it as the gold standard. They developed this institutional bias that was extremely skeptical of consumers’ complaints of sudden unintended acceleration.”

Here's the two-decade-old report that helped make investigators so skeptical. 

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