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Almost Half of American Vehicles Aren’t Covered Under Existing Safety Regulations

This Feb. 18, 2007, file photo shows an unsold 2006 Grand Prix sedan sitting outside a General Motors dealership in Boulder, Colo. General Motors’ safety crisis worsened on Monday, June 30, 2014, when the automaker added 8.2 million vehicles to its huge list of cars recalled over faulty ignition switches. The latest recalls cover seven vehicles, including the Chevrolet Malibu from 1997 to 2005 and the Pontiac Grand Prix from 2004 to 2008. The recalls also cover a newer model, the 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS. GM said the recalls are for “unintended ignition key rotation.”  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
This Feb. 18, 2007, file photo shows an unsold 2006 Grand Prix sedan sitting outside a General Motors dealership in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

 

(Bloomberg) – Hundreds of crashes involving defective cars are going unreported each year because under U.S. safety rules automakers aren’t required to report suspicious accidents for models more than 10 years old.

That’s worrisome, safety advocates say, because the average age of cars on U.S. roads is 11.4 years, and almost half of vehicles aren’t covered under existing regulations. As a result, many incidents don’t make it into a government early-warning database designed to catch patterns of defects that regulators can use to determine if a recall is necessary. In effect, the rules haven’t kept pace with the reality on the nation’s roads.

Legislation introduced in February by Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, would eliminate the 10-year limit as part of a broader effort to make safety data more useful to the public. That legislation is still being reviewed in committee.

“The law is absolutely out of date because companies have made it out of date by ignoring defects for so long in some of these cases,” said Joan Claybrook, a Washington-based consumer advocate who led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the 1970s. “It ought to be open-ended.”

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