The Truth About Cars » complaint database http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » complaint database http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com NHTSA Closes Barn Door, Hides Evidence http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/nhtsa-closes-barn-door-hides-evidence/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/nhtsa-closes-barn-door-hides-evidence/#comments Sat, 05 Jun 2010 12:15:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358199

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The NHTSA has definitely shut down on-line access to attachments in their Office of Defect Investigation complaint database. It’s about time, but it isn’t enough. To quote Kris Kristofferson, the database has always been “a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” The database has been abused for political propaganda purposes. Now, that it has served its purpose, the database is being shut down. Partially. They have locked away the only content that is of real value: The evidence. We preserved some. To show you what you will be missing.

The complaint database contains everything, from someone who has heard something somewhere from someone, to detailed accident investigations. Want to beat a ticket? File a report. Try to get out of jail where you landed due to vehicular manslaughter? File a report. Want to smear a manufacturer you don’t like? File a report. Have a serious problem? File a report. It’s all there.

Until yesterday, some of the more carefully filed reports had PDFs of scanned documents attached. These documents ran the gamut from lawyer letters to accident reports prepared by uniformed police. You could find search warrants for black boxes. You could find data readouts from black boxes. You also could find a lot of personal information. That is all gone.

Yesterday, NHTSA switched off access to the documents linked to the reports. Most likely, this was triggered by a report that “names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses, VINs, and drivers license numbers” are contained in these documents. This was revealed by frequent TTAC commentator Carquestions, who documented it in a Youtube video. In the video, Carquestion says: “NHTSA appears to be a source for identity theft.”

The story was picked up by Slashdot and went from there all over the Internet. Curiously, the mainstream media that usually buzzes to NHTSA database stories like flies to you-know-what, is quiet. Said one Slashdot commentator: “The guy who discovered and reported the leak is a Canadian.  So not only is the government leaking sensitive information, it took a foreigner to discover and disclose it. Embarrassment all around today.”

Someone at the NHTSA (we are still waiting for an official comment) must be more alarmed than the dozing media. There is the possibility that the Privacy Act of 1974 has been violated. The law says that “no agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains.” There are the usual caveats, if interested, look them up. Civil suits can be brought against the agency. Criminal charges can be brought also. A violator “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not more than $5,000.”

Violating the privacy of a citizen is less costly than the late filing by an automaker (can cost $16.4m currently, $200m if the amended version of the Motior Vehicle Safety Act is signed into law.) But the NHTSA seems to be worried enough to have turned off the access to the attached data. Quietly, without making the usual breathless announcements.

Don’t believe that that documents are locked away? Go to the Office of Defect Investigation complaint database. Enter “10318183 , 10284881” (without the quotes) into the search box. These are the case numbers of two notorious Toyota cases. Hit the search box. Before Friday, you would have found links to the following documents:

The no longer available document for ODI# 10318183 describes how the driver of a Lexus ES350 crossed the center line, slammed in to a prison van. Lexus driver and one prisoner dead. Accident report concludes that the Lexus drove in the oncoming lane, and hit the prison van at a speed between 72 and 73 mph. The report finds no defective equipment.

The no longer available document for ODI# 10284881 documents the infamous floormat-on floormat Mark Saylor case.

We carefully selected these two cases due to their notoriety. We show you the previously available  documents because they do not appear to reveal personal data. Other documents were not as carefully redacted.

Both documents, along with all other documents previously available, are no longer on-line. We retrieved ours before access was shut down.

The NHTSA is closing the barn after the cow got out. However, the NHTSA also prevents the researcher from proving that often cited death and fatality cases are either made up or caused by reckless drivers. Closed is the ability to drill down on cases. Many accident reports, carefully researched by police and investigators have vanished. Before, someone who went to the pain of actually going through the data could conclude that reports were filed by or on behalf of a drunk driver, or someone who was speeding in the wrong lane and was convicted for it. Now, such reasoning is made impossible.

All that is left are the allegations of dead and injured people, now without a shred of evidence.

What is also left are names, partial VINs (where available) and other information in the still available complaint records. Only the attachments have been blocked. Doesn’t the law say “no agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains?”

Shutting down access to the attachments is not enough. It only aggravates the situation. Public access to the whole database must be shut down until the database has been carefully cleaned up.

Unverified allegations must go. Cases that have been researched by government agencies and where equipment failure was ruled out must go. Personal information in the case description must go. Evidence backing up the cases must come back, carefully redacted to delete any personal information. Data should not be released before the agency that supposedly watches over our safety establishes the same level of quality control and reporting discipline which it demands from auto manufacturers.

How does Kris Kristofferson end his song? “There’s a lot of wrong directions on that lonely way back home.”

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89 Dead In The NHTSA Complaint Database? It’s A Sham http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/89-dead-in-the-nhtsa-complaint-database-it%e2%80%99s-a-sham/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/89-dead-in-the-nhtsa-complaint-database-it%e2%80%99s-a-sham/#comments Sun, 30 May 2010 18:45:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=357674

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This week, NHTSA came out and said that after a recount of their complaints database, they found 89 dead bodies in their computers, allegedly killed by evil runaway Toyotas. The MSM ate it up. If it bleeds, it leads. Even if it smells. In this article, we will show you the secrets of the incredible killing machine at NHTSA.

Of course it was one of those devilish coincidences that on the same day the House Energy And Commerce Committee convened and passed an amended version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The act, if approved, gives sweeping powers to NHTSA. Maximum fines to automakers rise from $16.4m to 200m. Black boxes become mandatory in all new cars. Funding for NHTSA is doubled to $280m over 3 years. Drivers will pay a “vehicle safety user fee.” As far as the NHTSA is concerned, the 89 people in their computer died for a good cause: The advancement of the NHTSA. But did they really die?

It is an open secret that the NHTSA database is an invitation to fraud. There is no fact checking. Anybody can file on-line complaints at NHTSA without a VIN number. Anybody can file any bogus report with any number of deaths. It will stay in the database and will be counted.

For a closer look, I downloaded the complete NHTSA complaint database to my computer, all 400 Megabytes of them. With the help of Microsoft Access, I pulled all records for incidents with Toyotas since the year 2000, and where the culprit was “VEHICLE SPEED CONTROL.” I counted the deaths: 5727 complaints yielded 100 deaths in 78 cases. Didn’t the NHTSA say 89? Oh well, maybe the NHTSA overlooked some. They had made mistakes before. One third of the alleged deaths occurred in a vehicle with no reported VIN number.

I started looking at the reports.

First report, 4 dead, no VIN. Description: “LEICESTER, MASS. — POLICE SAY IT APPEARS THE FOUR TEENAGERS WHO WERE KILLED IN A CAR CRASH IN LEICESTER WERE WEARING THEIR SEAT BELTS, AS WAS THE LONE SURVIVOR.  LEICESTER POLICE CHIEF JIM HURLEY SAYS NEITHER ALCOHOL NOR DRUGS WAS A FACTOR IN THE CRASH.” Unintended acceleration?

Next one, no VIN, 3 dead, allegedly: “THREE PEOPLE WERE KILLED WHEN A CAR LOST CONTROL IN WHITTIER AND SLAMMED INTO A TREE. … IT WAS NOT CLEAR WHAT CAUSED THE CRASH, BUT DRIVERS OFTEN COME DOWN THE HILL AT DANGEROUSLY HIGH SPEEDS, SALAZAR SAID.” Unintended acceleration?

Next one, no VIN. 2 dead, allegedly. Happened May 31,2003. Reported to NHTSA 7 years later on April 1, 2010: “1994 TOYOTA CAMRY. CONSUMER STATES DISCONTENT REGARDING A FATAL ACCIDENT WITH THIS VEHICLE AND WONDERS IF DEFECTS WERE THE CAUSE. THE CONSUMER LOST CONTROL OF THE VEHICLE AND IT RAN OFF THE ROADWAY AND STRUCK A REINFORCED WALL.” Unintended acceleration?

Next one, no VIN, 2 dead, allegedly. Happened July 14, 2007. Reported to NHTSA February 16, 2010: “ON JULY 14, 2007 MY PARENTS WERE INVOLVLED IN A SINGLE-CAR CRASH IN THE RESIDENTIAL AREA OF NEW BLOOMFIELD, MO. MY 84-YEAR-OLD FATHER WAS DRIVING A 2004 TOYOTA AVALON, SUDDENLY LEFT THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROADWAY, FLIPPED THE VEHICLE, AND LANDED UPSIDE DOWN, BACK ON THE PAVEMENT. MY 79-YEAR-OLD MOTHER WAS KILLED INSTANTLY FROM HEAD TRAUMA, AND MY FATHER PASSED AWAY FROM INJURIES SUSTAINED IN THE ACCIDENT 7 WEEKS LATER. THE AUTHORITIES COULD NOT DETERMINE THE CAUSE OF THE ACCIDENT, AND MY FATHER COULD NOT REMEMBER ANY DETAILS … WE HAVE BEEN VEXED BY THE WHOLE INCIDENT, AND IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO REQUEST HAVING THE AVALON INSPECTED (HIGHLY RATED VEHICLE AND ALL…), UNTIL ALL THE RECENT MEDIA OF OTHER DEATHS INVOLVING TOYOTA VECHICLES. I DO NOT HAVE THE VIN # AVAILABLE PRESENTLY, BUT CAN OBTAIN IT.” Unintended acceleration?

Next one, no VIN, 2 dead, allegedly. Happened Nov. 29, 2007. Reported to NHTSA February 16, 2010: “THE CONSUMERS FRIEND AND AN ACQUAINTANCE WERE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT. ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, THE CONSUMER’S FRIEND PULLED OUT IN FRONT OF A TRUCK. THE CONSUMER DISAGREED WITH THE THEORY THAT HER FRIEND WOULD HAVE JUST PULLED OUT IN FRONT OF A TRUCK. THE CONSUMER BELIEVED HER FRIEND MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED SOME TYPE OF MECHANICAL PROBLEM WITH THE VEHICLE. WHEN THE CONSUMER ASKED HAD THE VEHICLE BEEN INSPECTED, SHE WAS TOLD THAT WAS NOT AN ISSUE. “Unintended acceleration?

This database has everything, including admissions of drunk driving (1 dead) and manslaughter:

“ON 10/17/09 AT ABOUT 5:40 PM, AFTER DRINKING A VODKA WITH ICE, MY HUSBAND AND I WENT TO DINNER IN OUR 2005 LS430 LEXUS. WE INTENDED TO GO TO DINNER A RELATIVELY SHORT DISTANCE AWAY. I TURNED ON MILITARY TRAIL, PROCEEDED TO THE LEFT LANE TRAVELING SOUTHBOUND TOWARDS NORTHLAKE BLVD, PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA. AS I APPROACHED A TRAFFIC LIGHT MY LEXUS UNEXPECTEDLY SPED UP. I TRIED TO APPLY THE BRAKE. THERE WERE CARS STOPPED IN FRONT OF ME AT THE RED LIGHT. DESPITE MY EFFORTS MY CAR CONTINUED TO ACCELERATE. I TOOK EVASIVE MANEUVERS TO AVOID THE STOPPED VEHICLES IN FRONT OF ME. THE LEFT TIRES OF MY LEXUS WENT UP ON THE CENTER MEDIAN AND MY CAR CONTINUED TO ACCELERATE THROUGH THE INTERSECTION. I MISSED THE VEHICLES STOPPED AT THE TRAFFIC LIGHT AND TRAVELLING THROUGH THE INTERSECTION. MY CAR WOULD NOT STOP ACCELERATING. I STRUCK A CORVETTE STOPPED IN THE LEFT NORTHBOUND LANE OF MILITARY TRAIL. AFTER STRIKING THE CORVETTE, I CONTINUED THROUGH THE SOUTHBOUND LANES UNTIL I INTENTIONALLY DROVE MY CAR INTO A FIRE HYDRANT IN ORDER TO STOP AND AVOID STRIKING GAS PUMPS AT A SHELL STATION. MY HUSBAND AND I WERE INJURED IN THIS CRASH. THE DRIVER OF THE CORVETTE PASSED AWAY. MY LEXUS IS STILL IN POLICE CUSTODY. NO REPAIRS HAVE BEEN MADE AT THIS TIME. I WAS CHARGED WITH DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (MANSLAUGHTER), AND 3 OTHER CHARGES. I AM VIGOROUSLY FIGHTING THOSE CHARGES AS I WAS NOT IMPAIRED AND, AS EVIDENCED BY MY EVASIVE MANEUVERS, HAD CONTROL OF MY CAR. BUT FOR THE SUDDEN ACCELERATION, THIS ACCIDENT AND DEATH WOULD HAVE NOT OCCURRED. IN NOV. 2008, MY HUSBAND WAS DRIVING THE SAME LEXUS AND AS HE PULLED INTO OUR GARAGE THE CAR WOULD NOT STOP AND HIT CABINETS IN OUR GARAGE. LOOKING BACK AND COMPARING WHAT HAPPENED IN MY ACCIDENT ON 10/17/09 IT IS CLEAR THAT MY HUSBANDS EARLIER ACCIDENT WAS THE RESULT OF SOME SORT OF MALFUNCTION OF OUR LEXUS ACCELERATOR SYSTEM. NO REPAIRS WERE MADE TO THE VEHICLE AT THAT TIME.”

In that case, the driver was found with a blood alcohol level of .103. A search warrant was issued for the Sensing and Diagnostic Module of the Lexus. The data recorder found the vehicle “accelerating with no braking prior to crash and a speed of 49 mph at crash.” Unintended acceleration? Not according to court and police, but it counts for the NHTSA as one dead.

My head started to shake so hard, it did hurt. I gave up further analysis of this database. It is a sham. In many of the cases in that database unintended acceleration isn’t even alleged. Nevertheless, the cases are filed under “VEHICLE SPEED CONTROL” and bodies are counted. The ones that allege unintended acceleration are not investigated, but counted. There are many duplicates, upping the count, even triplicates: One ES350 crashes three times on the same day, killing 2 people each, bringing the carnage to six dead.  People are charged with DUI and manslaughter, but their victim counts. Police reports give causes for accidents such as “improper lane change” and say that there were no car defects. But the bodies count against Toyota.

Even without outright fraud, which this database invites, it is a collection of “the car made me do it” after people ran red lights, lost control when speeding, or were drunk. The real cases have documents, police reports etc. with them. As in the case of the drunk Lexus driver, the case could be quickly closed. But it is not. The ones without documents (such as the one with 4 deaths) should be thrown out immediately for lack of evidence. But they are not.

The people who run this database don’t need a $280m budget. They need a new job. Like counting the muskox population of Nome, Alaska. If they mess that up, there will be a career-limiting outcry from PETA to the Sierra Club. But their work on that collection of crooks and liars will remain unpunished.

What I don’t understand is that the MSM didn’t dig deeper into that morass. Never was investigative journalism easier. 100 people dead. Hundreds of millions of dollars involved. And the research can be done without getting one’s behind out of the chair in front of the computer. With that, I hand you over to our frequent commentator Carquestions who looked a bit deeper into that database.

PS: If you have nothing better to do, a file with the alleged dead since 2000 can be downloaded here in easy Excel format. For further investigation, go to the NHTSA complaint database and input the ODINO for the record you want to research. Do not shake your head violently, serious trauma may occur.

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