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Center for Auto Safety v. NHTSA (II)

This case challenged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s withholding of a 2003 agency report on the dangers of using cellphones while driving. In response to the initial FOIA request and appeal, NHTSA withheld the documents under Exemption 5, relying on the deliberative process privilege. The records, however, contained factual information such as the first-ever government estimate of the number of deaths attributable to cell phone use while driving. It also contained the agency’s surprising conclusion that hands-free devices are only marginally safer than hand-held cell phones because it is the conversation itself that distracts the driver. After filing the lawsuit, NHTSA turned over all the documents it has previously claimed were exempt, and we dismissed the suit.