WASHINGTON • Lives and property are at greater risk because auto recalls and investigations of safety defects have been put on hold during the partial government shutdown, safety advocates said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has furloughed employees who investigate safety complaints and order carmakers to recall vehicles. The public can still file safety complaints through the agency's website, but no one has been investigating them since the shutdown began over a week ago. Investigations previously underway have been halted.
Manufacturers can still voluntarily recall vehicles, but major recalls are typically negotiated between the government and automakers.
The safety administration oversees nearly 700 recalls every year, affecting 20 million vehicles, said safety advocate Joan Claybrook, who was the head of NHTSA during the Carter administration. For every NHTSA workday lost to the furlough, an average of three recalls covering 80,000 vehicles are delayed indefinitely, she said.