Red TapeThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is being scrutinized for its handling of the millions of recently issued automobile recalls. As of this date, more than 40 million cars have been recalled by manufacturers and the number is continuing to grow. Some are saying that the NHTSA is overloaded and it is ill-equipped to handle this onslaught of recalls. In fact, an investigation by the Associated Press indicates that the NHTSA has fallen considerably behind on its review of new driver petitions regarding safety issues.

NHTSA Delays Could Be Endangering Drivers

Since 2010, 15 petitions have been filed by drivers about automobile safety issues. However, legal deadlines apply to the NHTSA's review of these petitions -- i.e., the NHTSA must decide whether to deny or grant the requests within a finite period of time. Since 2010, though, 12 of the 15 petitions were not completed within the four month time limitation. One of those petitions, which was filed in 2012, has still not been reviewed. What this means is that the review of potentially dangerous and fatal automobile defects is being delayed and this could be endangering the American public. The NHTSA is strict with automakers and holds them to task when they do not make deadlines, issuing sanctions and fines when they are late disclosing safety issues. However, when the NHTSA is late and does not review safety petitions within the four month time limitation required by law, there are no penalties for the agency. The NHTSA blames its tardiness in some cases on the need to ask for more information from petitioners, but the fact remains -- these delays are dangerous.

What to Do if You Find an Auto Defect

When it comes to the NHTSA, consumers only have two ways to seek action regarding a dangerous auto defect. One method involves filing a complaint about an isolated incident. These can be reported via the NHTSA's website. The other way involves filing a formal petition that includes evidence of issues that have occurred in different cases. Considering how long the NHTSA takes to review these petitions, though, some individuals may wish to employ a third way to seek justice. This involves filing a lawsuit against the automaker in civil court and could bring the issues into the light for the general public. If injury or death resulted from an auto defect, victims and their families may have strong claims for financial restitution under the law.