The NYT Wheels Blog tipped us off to a little issue with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It seems that NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason, a Bush appointee who's taken a page out of the Cheney book of governmental transparency, has forbid the staff at the US Government's agency for safety in all forms of transportation from talking on the record to reporters. That means if a reporter's calling to ask a specific technical question about an issue as mundane as the LATCH system for children's seats — they're not allowed to receive an "on the record" quote from anyone at the agency who might actually know anything — like the subject matter expert — and instead have to wait to snag time with NHTSA chieftain Nason herself. We spoke with a couple of folks who don't have the foggiest idea why she's doing it. We're always willing to speculate, and we think it's because maybe she's trying to run for public office and wants to make sure she's getting her name in print as much as possible. So let's help her out. If you're a transportation-related journalist, let's make sure we're giving her the opportunity to have her voice heard and see Nicole Nason all the way from the bright screens of the interwebs press to the dirty ink of the print world. And since she's taken it upon herself to act as the subject expert sans expertise, give her some tough questions. Some thoughts on potential questions to ask after the jump.
1.) Why does NHTSA think the upper tether of the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system is so difficult for 40% of parents — causing them to rely on vehicles' seat belts?
2.) Why does Section 565.4c of Title 49 require a check digit to appear in position nine of a vehicle's VIN? What if I'm an OEM and I think it looks more visually appealing for it to be in position eight — will I go to jail if I change it on my vehicles or will I just get like, a million dollar fine?
3.) Can I sell regrooved or regroovable tires?
4.) I know I can use anthropomorphic test devices like a test dummy in my safety standard compliance testing. If anthropomorphic test dummies are too expensive am I allowed to use a chimp or gorilla if it looks kinda like a human but costs less — or will that hurt the test dummies feelings?
5.) A corollary to the above question. What if I have a six-year-old child who is smaller than the 6-year-old anthropomorphic test dummy that gets decapitated in the testing of the new Chery "Whatsis?" May I call it safe for use if I know my six-year-old child could make it through just fine because he (she) is "probably more representative than some stupid dummy?"
6.) Talk to me about Recall #07V209000 — how did this recall make you feel? Happy? Sad? Explain.
7.) Will you please demonstrate how an Interlock ignition system would have prevented George W. Bush from driving under the influence in Maine in 1976?
8.) Do you actually know anything about cars and trucks and stuff? Please elaborate.
Nikki's number is (202) 366-1836. Remember to call early, and call often.