Consumer Group Sues DOT For Failure To Create Searchable Database Of Safety Defects

More than three years ago, Congress instructed the Department of Transportation to create a publicly accessible, and easily searchable, website featuring communications between regulators, automakers, dealers, and consumers about safety defects. One safety group says this hasn’t happened, and is suing DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx in an effort to make this database a reality.

The Center for Auto Safety filed the lawsuit [PDF] against Foxx last week accusing the Department of Transportation of violating the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.”

The Act, enacted in July 2012, directed the Secretary to make a website that would feature an index that:
• Identifies the make, model, and model year of the affected vehicles
• Includes a concise summary of the subject matter of the communication; and
• Shall be made available by the Secretary to the public on the Internet in a searchable format.

According to the lawsuit, the DOT’s failure to create such a website has “deprived the Center for Auto Safety and its members of important information about motor vehicle safety and defects.”

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists recalls, it requires consumers to use their vehicle identification number to find details about their car, and it does not provide information on service bulletins — issues that do not require a recall.

“DOT’s failure to implement the law costs consumers money for repairs covered by service bulletins and endangers their lives by withholding service bulletins that disclosures defects that can cause crashes, deaths and injuries,” Clarence Ditlow, executive director for CAS, said in a statement.

By filing the lawsuit, CAS seeks to force Foxx to do what the law requires: set up a consumer-friendly, searchable database.

A spokesperson for the Dept. of Transportation tells Consumerist that it does not comment on matters that are in litigation.