A troubling safety delay

From an editorial in Monday’s Washington Post:

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is widening its crackdown on air bags at risk of exploding – potentially killing or maiming the people they are supposed to protect.

Takata is one of a few firms worldwide that manufacture air bags. The problem has been linked to four U.S. deaths and many injuries – including those of Stephanie Erdman, who testified before a Senate panel on Thursday that she was blinded in one eye after her Honda air bag deployed.

Recalls first focused on 8 million cars in humid climates. Last week the NHTSA began to push for a nationwide recall affecting perhaps 30 million cars.

That’s the right call, and it should have happened sooner. The bigger question is whether carmakers and the NHTSA are effectively monitoring and responding to aftermarket problems.

Congress should pass a bill that would reduce the routine secrecy surrounding court settlements in lawsuits concerning public safety or public health. There were air-bag-related proceedings as early as 2003. With more information on the public record, those in and outside of government would have a better chance of connecting the dots sooner.