Safety watchdogs Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader have launched a scathing attack on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accusing the agency of corruption and coddling the industry rather than enforcing recall regulations.
In a lengthy op-ed for The New York Times, the duo claims the NHTSA backed down from its 2009 investigation into Honda airbag problems after the company hired a former NHTSA official to serve as a liaison.
“Beginning in the ’80s, however, numerous officials — including Diane K. Steed, Jerry Ralph Curry, Sue Bailey and David L. Strickland, who all served as head of the agency, and Erika Z. Jones, Jacqueline S. Glassman and Paul Jackson Rice, who all served as chief counsel to the agency — have gone on to become consultants, lawyers or expert witnesses for auto companies,” the pair writes.
The safety advocates argue that legislators need to put an end to the revolving-door conflicts of interest, implement new regulations to hold executives criminally accountable, and enforce the new rules via prison time in egregious cases. Following the General Motors ignition-switch recalls, some legislators have warmed to the idea of implementing punishments for executives who are found guilty of failing to quickly report safety issues. Automakers have traditionally remained victorious in their opposition to such proposals in years past, however.
Recent reports suggest the Obama administration is looking for a new leader at the NHTSA. The current acting administrator, David Friedman, is not believed to be on the list of potential candidates to take the position.