NHTSA falling behind on auto regulations, lawmakers say

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Heidi King: “We believe the budget does reflect the resources needed to succeed.” Photo credit: Courtesy of the Energy and Commerce Committee

UPDATED: 2/14/18 4:59 pm ET – adds details

WASHINGTON — Members of a House panel wondered Wednesday whether is stretched too thin to fulfill a growing list of responsibilities for ensuring motor vehicle safety and reducing traffic-related deaths.

Democrats said the situation is unlikely to improve because the White House has not nominated a permanent administrator to lead the regulatory agency and is proposing to reduce its budget.

The Trump administration has requested $899 million for NHTSA in fiscal year 2018, down from the $905 million appropriated by Congress in 2017.

“It is troubling that NHTSA does not have the resources, people or expertise it needs to fulfill its mandate” and the absence of an administrator shows the Trump administration does not see safety as a priority, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said during an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.

“We believe the budget does reflect the resources needed to succeed,” Heidi King said in her first congressional testimony since becoming deputy administrator in late September, adding that she is capable of running the agency.

Several said NHTSA is not in position to implement rules governing development of automated vehicles because of the lack of technical experts and that it already has problems regulating safety of conventional vehicles.

Members said recall completion rates for Takata airbags are too low and that the agency has fallen behind on issuing several rule-makings mandated by Congress, including ones for rear seat belt reminders and protecting children in car seats during side impact crashes.

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