Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: GM, regulators must do better on safety

Businesses constantly lobby to reduce government regulation, but the unfolding debacle at General Motors is a reminder that industry can't always be trusted to do what it should to protect its customers. GM chief executive Mary Barra has issued an apology for the deaths that occurred after the company failed to recall small cars for a part it knew was defective 10 years ago. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also needs to re-examine how it failed to see the problem after three separate investigations. Both the free market and regulators failed American consumers.

This is when General Motors should have been doing a victory lap. It has emerged from bankruptcy, repaid government loans and installed its first female chief executive. But instead the company finds itself in the middle of a growing controversy. GM last month finally ordered a recall of cars with faulty ignition switches that shut down engines and kept air bags from deploying — but not until the defect had been linked to at least 12 deaths, and possibly many more. As the New York Times reported, a report for the Center for Auto Safety conducted by Friedman Research Corp. suggests that 303 people died in two of the recalled models in crashes in which air bags failed to deploy. GM has also recalled another 1.7 million cars this week for a variety of safety concerns.

GM now acknowledges it first learned of problems with the ignition switches on its Cobalt line of cars in 2004. Over the next decade, GM's engineers confirmed the problem on the Cobalt and other product lines, including the Saturn Ion, Pontiac G5 and Chevrolet HHR. GM filed reports of product failures with federal safety regulators. But neither the company's engineers nor the federal safety experts connected the dots until last fall when GM's engineers finally uncovered the source of the ignition switch problems.

Now Barra has ordered a comprehensive internal safety review, issued the additional recall and is preparing for congressional hearings. GM says the combined recalls and repairs will cost the company nearly $300 million. It should also expect a torrent of private lawsuits. The Justice Department has launched an investigation to ascertain if GM broke any laws.

But GM isn't the only one that needs to review. NHTSA, the traffic safety agency, needs to explain what steps it will take to keep closer watch on automaker defects and responses. In this case, the agency failed to act despite numerous complaints and two investigations into fatal accidents involving 2005 Chevy Cobalts in which the ignition switch had switched from "run" to "accessory," causing the engine to shut off or the air bags not to deploy. An investigation into a third fatal accident in a different model also found the engine had shut off.

Hopefully, GM has learned a lesson and won't drag its heels on future recalls. But consumers can't count on that, and there is a clear need to reinvigorate auto regulation. Americans should be able to trust that their government demands that major automakers, particularly one that has benefited so much from public goodwill in recent years, meet safety standards.

Comments
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18