Enhancing Safety Defect Analysis: DOT Audit Highlights Areas for Improvement at NHTSA

The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General (DOTIG) recently conducted an audit of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), specifically examining the agency’s analysis of safety defects in vehicles. The audit revealed areas where improvements are needed to expedite the investigation process and enhance public safety. As a personal injury law firm committed to advocating for victims of automotive accidents, we recognize the significance of this audit report and its implications for vehicle safety. In this blog post, we will delve into the findings and recommendations outlined in the report, emphasizing the importance of a more efficient defect analysis process.

The Audit Findings:

The audit primarily focused on NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), responsible for gathering and analyzing information, investigating potential defects, identifying unsafe vehicles and equipment, and managing recalls. While the ODI has made efforts to update its processes, including office restructuring and software modernization, the audit report indicated several areas where further improvements are required.
One critical concern raised by the audit report is the ODI’s inability to investigate a significant number of consumer complaints promptly. In 2019 alone, out of the 75,267 consumer complaints received by NHTSA, only 88 investigations were initiated. The ODI also struggled to meet timeliness goals, delay the uploading of documents to the public website, lacked an integrated information system, and failed to consistently follow issue escalation procedures.

Addressing the Issues:

Recognizing the urgent need to improve safety defect analysis and recall processes, the DOTIG offered twelve recommendations. Although NHTSA concurred with ten of these recommendations, it partially agreed with one and disagreed with the DOTIG’s suggestion regarding consistent rules for negotiating safety defect issues with manufacturers. The DOTIG considers all twelve recommendations “resolved but open pending implementation.”
The proposed improvements aim to expedite information collection and analysis, streamline issue escalation procedures, and foster greater collaboration with automakers to ensure timely recalls. It is essential to note that the audit report emphasized the importance of swift action, drawing attention to the Takata airbag inflator case, where delays resulted in tragic fatalities and injuries.

Protecting Public Safety:

At OnderLaw, we understand the far-reaching impact of automotive safety defects on individuals and their families. The findings of this audit reinforce the need for NHTSA to enhance its defect analysis capabilities and collaborate effectively with automakers to prevent future tragedies.
The recommendations put forth by the DOTIG serve as a crucial roadmap for NHTSA to expedite investigations and recalls while ensuring public safety. By implementing streamlined processes, integrating information systems, and establishing consistent rules for negotiations, NHTSA can proactively address safety defects and protect consumers.


The DOT’s audit report highlights areas where NHTSA can improve its analysis of safety defects in vehicles. Enhancing the defect investigation and recall processes is of utmost importance to safeguard public safety and prevent avoidable accidents. At OnderLaw, we remain committed to advocating for victims affected by automotive safety defects, and we urge NHTSA to implement the recommended improvements promptly. By doing so, we can create a safer road environment for all and hold manufacturers accountable for the quality and safety of their products. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation.