The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has come under fire from safety advocacy groups claiming it’s not doing its job. The groups are calling for action and hope that the Department of Transportation will better enforce car safety regulations.
For the past 50 years, consumer advocate and NHTSA co-founder Ralph Nader has been a proponent of automotive safety. Now he’s working with advocacy groups to take a stand for the NHTSA once again. He believes politicians are responsible for making it “meek.” And he intends to help change that once and for all.
Making sure vehicles are the safest they can be
The New York Times recently reported that NHTSA criticism stems from the agency’s failure to “promptly detect and act on deadly safety problems.” Advocates said the agency also “fails to promptly carry out congressional safety mandates, keep track of the adequacy of recalls, strongly regulate autonomous vehicles, and update safety standards.” They also claim automakers receive deferential treatment.
As the Biden administration begins to adopt new policies, a coalition of six advocacy groups is on a mission to provide motorists with better protection by creating transparency in the NHTSA.
The NHTSA has played a crucial role in developing industry safety standards for automobile manufacturers since its founding in 1970. Established via the Highway Safety Act, the agency promotes the use of airbags, seat belts, and child safety seats. It also keeps motorists apprised of safety matters.
Ralph Nader: ‘NHTSA is a meek consultant to the auto giants’
Ralph Nader’s Center for Study of Responsive Law published a 68-page report on behalf of the auto safety coalition. It’s titled “Safer Vehicles and Highways: 4.2 Million U.S. Lives Spared Since 1966.”
The report’s author, Joan Claybrook, told the New York Times: “NHTSA has strong regulatory authority and talented staff, but it needs an administration that is dedicated to protecting motorists and will resist pressure from automakers.”
Responding to the New York Times article, Nader points out that since 1966, the NHTSA has made motor vehicles safer, with less pollution and better fuel efficiency. He attests that the agency’s regulation enforcement has spared over 4 million lives, prevented countless injuries, and diminished property damage.
Nader also addressed the concerns put forth in the report. “In recent decades … under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, NHTSA was degraded into more of a sporadic, meek consultant to the auto giants, instead of a strong law enforcement agency,” he said in a column published in Common Dreams.
The consumer advocate is calling on the U.S. government to increase the NHTSA’s budget and create stronger laws. He also wants criminal penalties for automotive companies that fail to recall defective vehicles.
Nader is urging the Biden administration, under the guidance of the new secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, to step up. He wants the DOT to give the NHTSA law enforcement power to ensure vehicles are the safest they can be.
Nader’s role in the NHTSA
Ralph Nader has been a political activist for most of his adult life, Ballotpedia reports. Soon to be 87 years old, he ran for president of the United States four times. In fact, his most famous campaign contributed to Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 election.
The attorney and environmentalist has dedicated his life to promoting consumer rights and stripping corporations of their seemingly limitless power. A staunch humanitarian, Nader has never stopped taking on the auto industry to promote consumer safety.
In 2016, the author and consummate advocate was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Nader also received recognition for his role in establishing the NHTSA and reducing the number of vehicle-related crashes through his 1965 best-selling book, Unsafe at Any Speed.