Entries in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (5)


Traffic Fatalities Soar During First Half of 2012

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many more people were killed on the nation’s roadways during the first six months of this year than the same period in 2011.

This 9 percent increase in traffic deaths from 14,950 to 16,290 represents the biggest jump since 1975 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began keeping detailed stats on crashes.

Previously, the largest spike in road deaths for the first six months of any of the past 37 years was 6.4 percent in 1979.  Meanwhile, the fatality rate of 1.12 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was the highest since 2009.

While the NHTSA wouldn’t speculate on factors contributing to the rise in traffic fatalities during the first half of the year, it appears that the unseasonably warm winter across much of the country might have been responsible for more drivers on the road.

Indeed, crashes from January through March were up 13.4 percent from the same period in 2011, compared to a 5.4 percent increase from April through June.

Nonetheless, overall traffic deaths have fallen dramatically since 2005 when they totaled 42,708.  Last year, 32,310 died on the roadways.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Traffic Deaths in US Fall to Lowest Level in 60 Years

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of Americans killed on roads last year fell to its lowest level in 60 years despite a jump in miles traveled, government officials announced Friday.

According to projections by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic deaths declined to 32,788 in 2010, marking a three percent drop from the previous year and the lowest number of fatalities since 1949.  Moreover, since 2005, the total number of deaths has dropped by 25 percent.

The drop came even as Americans drove further in 2010, tacking on close to 21 billion more miles on their odometers than they did the year before, the NHTSA said.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the decrease in traffic deaths comes in part because more people are buckling up.

"We've had a very strong Click It or Ticket campaign for 20 years where we have persuaded 85 percent of the people to buckle up," LaHood told ABC News.

Yet the secretary declared "we can't rest on our laurels" since over 30,00 people still died, and pledged the government will remain vigilant about stopping traffic deaths.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Are You Playing Rental Car Roulette?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A survey of the major rental car companies by federal safety officials found that in a significant number of cases the companies have rented cars under safety recall without first fixing the defects.

According to the survey, commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the big three in the rental car business -- Hertz, Enterprise which owns National and Alamo, and Avis/Budget – since 2006 have let tens of thousands of drivers go on the road without repairing defects.

Due to a calculation error by ABC News, an earlier version of this story, also reported on "Good Morning America," misinterpreted the data on the percentage of repairs and did not give the rental car companies all the credit they were due. Even so, safety advocates say anything short of a 100 percent repair rate is unacceptable.

"The bottom line shows that none of the rental car companies are doing a good job," Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, told ABC News.

Last November, NTSHA had asked the domestic car manufacturers to provide recall repair information from the car rental companies because of "incidents involving allegations of personal injury and death" allegedly caused by "safety defects" on rental vehicles.

The best overall performance came from Enterprise. In a study of 10 General Motors and Chrysler recalls between 2006 and 2010, after 90 days, Enterprise had fixed an average of 65 percent of the cars subject to the recall.

For Avis/Budget, 53 percent of the cars were fixed . At Hertz, only 34 percent of the cars rented 90 days after a recall had been fixed.

The NHTSA study came after ABC News reported on "Good Morning America" last July on the deaths of the Houck sisters of California, 24-year old Raechel and 20-year old Jacquie, who were killed in an accident involving their Enterprise rental car. The car they were driving was a Chrysler PT Cruiser, one that a month earlier had been recalled because a possible leak in the power steering fluid could "result in an under hood fire."

The Houck's car was never fixed. Raechel and Jacquie died instantly after the PT Cruiser caught fire and hit an oncoming semi-tractor trailer on Highway 101 in Northern California. The sisters had rented the car in Santa Cruz, Calif., to visit their parents in Ventura County.

"We found out that they had rented this same car three times in that month period before they rented it to Raechel and Jacquie," Houck's family lawyer, Larry Grassini, said.

The Houcks sued Enterprise, and after a lengthy legal fight, the company admitted negligence and was required to pay $15 million in damages to the family. Now, the girls' mother Cally Houck is pushing the California legislature to pass a law requiring rental car companies to ground all recalled vehicles until they are fixed. Citing the Houck case, the Center for Auto Safety has also petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to require Enterprise to fix vehicles under recall before renting them out.

"I do not want another family to have to go through this type of ordeal," Cally Houck said.

Rental Companies Dispute Survey Findings

The rental companies dispute the survey findings, saying they pick and choose which recalls are most important, and have a high rate of fix for the most serious problems. Both Avis and Enterprise noted that after a 2010 recall of Pontiac vehicles over sticking accelerator pedals, they grounded and repaired the vehicles in question before renting them out.

However, the NHTSA survey found that in the 2007 recall of a series of Chrysler vehicles with a brake problem "that could cause a crash without warning," Enterprise/National fixed 65 percent within 90 days, according to the survey, and Avis/Budget fixed 61 percent. Hertz fixed only 46 percent within 90 days.

"They cannot pick and choose," Ditlow said. "They're gambling with your life."

Hertz said it has dramatically changed its policy and told ABC News that as of last summer, it now grounds all cars recalled for any reason, and will not rent them until they are fixed -- a change of policy that grew out of the public attention drawn to the tragic case of the two sisters.

Enterprise also said the government's recall figures are historical and do not reflect their performance in the most recent recalls in which they said repairs were virtually 100 percent complete within 90 days.

It is a position safety advocates said they hope the other rental car companies will follow. In the meantime, Ditlow said the best recourse for consumers is to simply ask rental car agents if their vehicle is subject to an outstanding safety recall.

"If they don't tell you, they're deceiving you and if they won't tell you, just go to another company, go to another counter," said Ditlow. "They're all right there in the airport, this is a free market, pick somebody who's more responsible."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feds Launch Crackdown On Unsafe Rental Cars

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As the busiest travel holiday of the year gets underway, U.S. safety officials have launched an investigation to determine how quickly rental car companies repair vehicles that have been recalled for safety issues.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sent letters to GM, Chrysler, and Ford, asking for details on the recall repair status of almost 3 million cars that are among the vehicles most commonly rented.

The NHTSA says the crackdown was prompted by "incidents involving allegations of personal injury and death" allegedly caused by safety defects on rental vehicles, including a 2004 case documented in an ABC News report in which two sisters died in a PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise that had been subject to a safety recall.

No federal law requires that rental companies fix recalled cars before handing the keys to consumers, and as the ABC News report documented, not all firms have policies in place to ensure that vehicles under safety recall are repaired before they're rented.

Executives from Enterprise, the country's largest car rental company, admitted that recalled cars were sometimes rented without being fixed during testimony for a lawsuit filed by the parents of Raechel and Jacquie Houck, sisters who died when their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser caught fire and hit a truck on a California highway.

"When demand called, we rented out recalled vehicles, it happened, I won't lie," said Mark Matias, a former Enterprise area manager in San Francisco, in an affidavit filed for the case in 2008.  "If all you have are recalled vehicles on the lot, you rent them out. It was a given. The whole company did it. Enterprise's corporate offices look the other way regarding this fact."

Other Enterprise executives testified that there was no companywide policy requiring cars under recall to be held back from rental.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Government Issues Safety Advisory for 15-Passenger Vans

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The government has issued an advisory Thursday to owners and operators of 15-passenger vans following two recent fatal crashes in New York and Georgia  involving this type of vehicle. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is advising drivers of these vehicles to pay particular attention to tire pressure and the age of the tires on these vans.  

Government research has shown these vans have a high roll-over rate in certain conditions -- particularly when the van is fully loaded.

NHTSA is directing the advisory particularly toward church groups and non-profits as well as colleges and universities that may keep older vans due to restricted transportation budgets. 

The agency also urged pre-primary, primary and secondary schools not to use 15-passenger vans to transport school children.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio