White House open to NHTSA, DOT reforms

The White House signaled Tuesday that administration officials would "welcome" reforms to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) that could help better prevent the type of mass recalls recently announced by General Motors.

The Detroit automaker recalled another 8.5 million vehicles on Monday, bringing the total number of cars and trucks recalled by GM this year to 29 million. The company says it knows of at least three fatalities and seven accidents that have been caused by ignition switch problems.


White House press secretary Josh Earnest deliberately noted that the NHTSA was "an independent organization that's responsible for acting outside of any political influence to ensure that that very important responsibility they have is performed rigorously."

But Earnest said he had "high expectations for individuals who work in that administration" and that the safety of the American traveling public was a "top priority."

"If there are new ideas that the Department of Transportation or NHTSA has for trying to catch these problems sooner or more quickly before they pose a broader threat, we would certainly welcome those kinds of proposed reforms," Earnest said.

Still, it did not appear that the White House was seeking out particular reforms.

Earnest said the White House had "confidence in the efforts that were underway."

"I might observe that the fact that there have been so many recall announcements made is an indication of the rigorous process that's underway," Earnest said. "But I would reserve judgment on that process and the way that it's carried out because those are decisions that are undertaken by an independent agency."

Last month, the NHTSA announced that GM had agreed to pay a $35 million fine following an investigation into its handling of the ignition switch defect. The agency also announced increased monitoring of GM.