Wednesday, April 25, 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.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18