NHTSA Encourages Auto Industry Whistleblowers To Report Safety Problems and Claim Monetary Awards

In an effort to improve the safety of automobiles on U.S. roadways, federal highway safety officials have launched a new website designed to encourage auto industry whistleblowers to report vehicle safety defects and noncompliance violations, while also offering monetary awards and protections.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the Whistleblower Program on June 14, introducing a new information page containing resources designed to make it easier for any employee or contractor of a motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, or dealership to provide information related to safety defects and a wide variety of noncompliance violations.

The Whistleblower Program was passed as part of the Vehicle Safety Act, allowing employees or contractors of an automobile industry corporation to safely report a wide variety of topics to regulatory officials, including potential vehicle safety defects, noncompliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and violations of the federal requirements.

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Under the program, the confidentiality of whistleblowers is provided and individuals are protected from retaliation by their employers, it encourage them to report violations and noncompliance issues. NHTSA is also able to pay a monetary award to a whistleblower whose information leads to the successful resolution of an enforcement action for violations of law.

“Safety is the top priority for NHTSA and the entire U.S. Department of Transportation,” Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator, said in a press release. “Whistleblowers play a critical role in safeguarding our nation’s roadways, and we will do everything in our power to protect them.”

Whistleblower information is often used to launch investigations, recalls, or mandate civil penalties and enforcements actions against a company or corporation. Whistleblowers may also be entitled to monetary awards for providing information leading to the successful resolution of an enforcement action for violations of law.

According to the NHTSA whistleblower website, whistleblower may receive between 10% and 30% of collected monetary sanctions over $1 million.

Auto industry whistleblower protections haven proven to be critical for employees and contractors, with one of the most recent whistleblower cases leading to the largest vehicle recall ever recorded; the Takata airbag recall series which resulted in more than 50 million inflators being recalled and 24 consumer deaths due to rupturing inflators.

Throughout the Takata airbag recalls, the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA relied heavily upon three employees of Takata  to provide the government with evidence the air bag parts supplier knew its airbag inflators were dangerous as early as 1999, yet intentionally covered up the dangers to avoid recalls.

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