Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

CENTER FOR AUTO SAFETY v. NATIONAL HWY. TRAFFIC

February 28, 2000

CENTER FOR AUTO SAFETY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT, AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR LTD., ET AL., INTERVENOR-DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kessler, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Center for Auto Safety ("Plaintiff "or "CAS") brings this case under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 ("FOIA"), seeking information from Defendant National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), and the Intervenor-Defendant automobile manufacturers and their suppliers, in order to formulate its comments to NHTSA's proposed rule regarding air bags. The final rule upon which Plaintiff wishes to comment is scheduled to be published by March 1, 2000. This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment [# 59, # 74, # 76, # 78, #80, # 90], as well as Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [# 95]. Upon consideration of the motions, oppositions, replies, the voluminous exhibits, and the entire record herein, for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs Motion to Strike [# 95] is denied, Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment [# 59] is denied, and the Defendant's and Intervenor-Defendants' cross-motions for summary judgment [# 74, # 76, # 78, # 80, # 90] are granted.

I. Procedural History*fn1

On December 17, 1997, NHTSA issued an Information Request ("IR") to nine automobile manufacturers and importers, asking them to provide information on the air bag systems installed in vehicles manufactured or imported into the United States for model years ("MY") 1990-98. The manufacturers were directed to respond by February 17, 1998. NHTSA subsequently posted some of the information provided by the manufacturers on the Department of Transportation's Internet website.

On January 19, 1999, Plaintiff requested, by letter and pursuant to the FOIA, all material responsive to the IR that was not already public through the Department of Transportation's Internet website. On February 16, 1999, NHTSA responded with a letter indicating that all the information Plaintiff requested was being withheld pursuant to Exemption 4 of FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4).

On March 10, 1999, Plaintiff appealed NHTSA's determination, and on June 18, 1999, NHTSA granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs appeal. NHTSA released some of the information Plaintiff sought, but continued to withhold many of the items in question in this litigation.

On June 29, 1999, Plaintiff filed this suit. All nine automobile manufacturers, as well as three suppliers who specialize in air bag components, have since joined as Intervenor-Defendants. Between the time the suit was filed and January 7, 2000, when all motions were fully briefed, NHTSA and the manufacturers have released some of the information that Plaintiff seeks. However, there are 33 items of information remaining (falling within 6 general categories) for which at least one manufacturer still claims an exemption.

II. Information Sought

Plaintiff seeks disclosure of all of the following information submitted by the manufacturers in response to NHTSA's IR. These 33 items of information fall within the following six general categories: air bag deployment, air bag cover, air bag system components, seatbelts, crash sensors, and system performance.*fn2

A. Air bag Deployment

1. A.1.a.(3) — Whether air bag module is designed to move away from the occupant at time of deployment, and if so, how far.

This item asks whether the air bag is designed to move away from the driver at the time it deploys, that is, further into the steering column, or further into the instrument panel.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption to this item of information: DaimlerChrysler (MY 96-98), Nissan (MY 96-98), and Volvo (MY 96-98).

2. A.1.b.(4) — For passenger air bags, whether the air bag module is designed to move away from the occupant at time of deployment, and if so, how far.

This item asks whether the passengerside air bag is designed to move away from the passenger at the time it deploys, that is, further into the instrument panel.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler (MY 9092 & 95-98), Nissan (MY 95-98), Volkswagen-Audi (MY 95-98), and Volvo (MY 90-92 & 95-98).

3. A.2.a — Primary initial gas flow vector, measured in degrees from a horizontal plane.

The primary initial gas flow vector is the angle at which the gas initially begins to flow into the air bag during deployment of the air bag.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

4. A.2.b — For passenger air bags, primary initial direction of deployment.

This item refers to the initial direction of the air bag when it deploys.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen-Audi.

B. Air bag Cover

5. B.2 — Minimum breakout pressure.

This item refers to the minimum pressure needed to cause the air bag cover to tear, thereby causing the air bag to deploy. Variables that must be considered in determining what the minimum breakout pressure should be are the mass of the air bag cover and the tear pattern of the air bag cover, discussed below.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Volvo.

6. B.3 — Mass. of cover.

This item refers to the mass of the air bag cover. This variable affects how the air bag deploys; a lighter cover will require less breakout pressure than a heavier one, but a heavier cover might cause injury due to its weight.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

7. B.4 — Tear pattern of cover (verbal description or illustration).

The tear pattern refers to how the cover of the air bag breaks when the air bag is deployed. The tear pattern can affect the air bag's trajectory and the speed of deployment.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

C. Air bag System Components

8. C.1.b — Fold pattern (verbal description or illustration).

The fold pattern refers to how the air bag is folded and stored in the module. The fold pattern of an air bag is determined by taking into account the characteristics of a specific type of air bag, as well as the internal dimensions of the vehicle.

All manufacturers still claim an exemption.

9. C.1.c — Material of bag and mass of that material.

This item refers to the material of which the air bag is composed and the weight of that material. Virtually all air bags are made of nylon or polyester. The mass and material of the air bag are important to insuring that the air bag does not rip during deployment, but also that it is not so heavy as to injure the occupant by its mass. The material of the air bag affects the venting of the air bag during the collapse of the bag; the material can also cause injury itself, such as abrasions during deployment.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

10. C.1.d — Inflation time, from initiation to full inflation.

This item refers to the time it takes for the air bag to fully inflate. A fast inflation time is important to getting the air bag in position to perform its function. However, a slower inflation time may be more beneficial in protecting occupants who are out of position (i.e., not wearing seatbelts, etc.).

All manufacturers still claim an exemption.

11. C.1.e — Volume of fully inflated air bag.

This item refers to the volume of the air bag after it is fully inflated after deployment. It is the fully-inflated air bag that performs the injury-restraint function.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

12. C.1.f — Number and location of tethers.

The tethers are typically pieces of fabric sewn inside the air bag that control its shape and deployment characteristics. Their function is to control the movement of the air bag and reduce air bag related injuries, such as abrasions caused by the force of deployment. However, in high speed crashes, a tethered air bag may be less effective than an untethered air bag because it does not move as close to the occupant. The decision to include tethers, including their number and location, involves a balance between these two (and other) objectives — reducing air bag related injuries, and protecting occupants in high speed crashes.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

13. C.1.g.(1) — Driver air bag deployment distance: distance between Planes J and K.

This item asks for the distance that the driver-side air bag deploys rearward. A longer distance can protect the driver from injuries resulting from contact with the automobile interior, but can also create injury risks to out-of-position drivers.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

14. C.1.g.(2) — Driver air bag deployment distance: distance between Planes F and K, and state which is forward of the other.

This item asks for the distance between the rear-most point that the driver-side air bag reaches when deployed, and the "seating reference point," as defined in 49 C.F.R. § 571.3.

The following manufacturers still claim an exemption: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi, and Volvo.

15. C.1.g.(3) — Driver air bag deployment distance: maximum distance the air bag reaches, laterally on each side of Plane M, at any time during deployment.

This item asks for the distance that the driver-side air ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.