The shameful ineptitude of America's automobile regulators

Enough with the red tape! The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is incompetent, anyway.

Chevrolet Cobalt
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Tony Dejak))

Even when Congress diagnoses a problem correctly, you can pretty much count on it to prescribe exactly the wrong solution. This week, it issued a scathing report about NHTSA's (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) mishandling of GM's ignition switch debacle. But instead of holding the federal agency accountable, lawmakers want to reward NHTSA with more money and power. Really.

By GM's own admission, a faulty ignition switch in its 2005 Cobalt and six other models has so far caused more than 30 crashes and 19 deaths. The switch in these cars was loose. So if a car hit a bump, the switch would slip from the run to the accessory position, shutting down the engine (especially if any object weighed down the key chain). This would not only diminish maneuverability, increasing the chances of a crash, but also disable the airbags that protect occupants. Despite many red flags, it took GM nine years to figure this out and finally issue a recall of some two million vehicles.

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