NHTSA to close amid government shutdown

The government shutdown has dominated the headlines, with many people around the country concerned as to how the massive closures will affect their daily lives. What some residents may not have realized is that the U.S. Department of Transportation had to stop many of its operations, including the running of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and this change could pose some major problems to drivers around the country. 

What the shutdown means
When it is functioning at full strength, the NHTSA is typically in charge of investigating the state of vehicles, whether it is testing new auto products, investigating driver complaints or issuing recall notices. Many drivers rely on this organization to provide insight and information as to the performance and safety of automobiles. 

Automakers are not currently required to announce recalls to the general public, and many choose not to in an attempt to avoid negative publicity. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center For Auto Safety, told AOL Autos that 25 to 40 percent of all recalls stem from government investigations, and the NHTSA is responsible for raising most of the awareness around these issues. Without the NHTSA alerting the public or spurring on evaluations, there could be a lapse in quality or repairs offered to the public. 

"If an automaker does a recall, it might be because they know government investigators are on the trail," Ditlow told the news source. "Without those investigations ... in the long term, it could significantly endanger consumer safety."

What drivers can do
The absence of the NHTSA and other DOT efforts for the foreseeable future means that motorists will have to be proactive when it comes to vehicle maintenance and research. If they don't, they could encounter issues that affect the performance of the car. 

"For a consumer who goes and buys a car today, then finds out a month from now it was a poor performer on a test, they're not going to be able to get their money back," Ditlow explained to the news source. "So it's a raw deal."

Those drivers who are on the lookout for a new off-road vehicle should be sure to conduct thorough research before making a final decision. Extensive test drives and maintenance checks are just the beginning. Prospective buyers should also be looking for ways to see what current drivers have to say about the quality and performance of the automobile. Motorists will also have to pay close attention to vehicle recalls or news that comes straight from the manufacturer.