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Should the public know about auto safety issues sooner?

Serious safety issues with vehicles tend to come to light eventually. When enough people are killed in accidents caused by defective tires or when people pass away because their defective airbags didn't deploy, the stories start to pile up. They make the news. The links become clear. Eventually, there may be a recall and a public investigation.

However, some officials do note that the public may be the last to find out.

A man who used to work as a senior enforcement official for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that many steps are usually taken behind the scenes. Injury and death statistics are compiled. Officials correspond with the auto manufacturer. Early tests are conducted and the investigation starts moving forward.

When this investigation shows that a recall is needed, people find out about the issue. But what if it takes months or even years to get to that point? If an investigation starts in January and a dozen people are killed in accidents by July when the recall is issued, that means those people passed away -- without the knowledge that they were in danger -- while automakers and safety officials already knew of the risks.

If they'd known sooner, would they have purchased different cars? Would accidents, injuries and fatalities have been avoided? When does the public have a right to know about a safety concern, after it's been proven or when the officials suspect there's a serious issue?

These are all important questions to ask after a loved one is killed in an accident. When this happens, family members may want to know what legal options they have to seek compensation for an avoidable death.

Source: USA Today, "Auto safety concerns often stay secret," Jayne O'Donnell, accessed Sep. 05, 2017

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