On March 25, 2014, Senator Markey (D-MA) and Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced introduced legislation that would require auto manufacturers to provide more information about incidents involving fatalities to NHTSA. The legislation, the Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act, would require NHTSA make the information it receives from automakers publicly available in a searchable, user-friendly format so that consumers and independent safety experts can evaluate potential safety defects themselves. Specifically, the bill would:
- Require automobile and equipment manufacturers to automatically submit the accident report or other document that first alerted them to a fatality involving their vehicle or equipment to NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting database. NHTSA is then required to automatically make those documents public unless they are exempted from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Presently, these documents are only provided to NHTSA if the agency requests them, and they are not made public unless they are requested under FOIA;
- Require NHTSA to consider EWR information when it is investigating potential safety defects and when it is evaluating citizen petitions for automobile safety standards or enforcement actions;
- Require NHTSA to upgrade its online databases to improve searchability, integrate its different databases so they can all be searched at once, and ensure that all documents obtained or created by NHTSA related to a safety incident are both made publicly available and keyword searchable in its databases; and
- Require NHTSA to provide public, searchable notices of all inspection and investigation activities it undertakes.