The man nominated by President Obama to run the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested the agency would take a tougher stance under his leadership. Mark Rosekind also repeated the need for greater resources for the NHTSA if it is going to be effective in its mission to reduce injuries and deaths caused by traffic accidents. The statements were made during Senate hearings to determine if his nomination will be confirmed.
The NHTSA was widely criticized for its handling of two safety defects in automobiles and automobile products. Takata airbags and GM ignition switch defects have been tied to multiple deaths. Both defects were first reported years and years before the affected vehicles were finally recalled. Critics contend that the NHTSA has been too lenient on companies that release unsafe products to consumers. They also contend that the administration has moved too slowly in informing the public about potential safety hazards.
There have been claims that the NHTSA has fallen victim to “regulatory capture.” That describes the situation wherein a group that is responsible for regulating an industry is shaped or reshaped by that industry to serve its purposes. Basically, the NHTSA is accused of doing the bidding of car companies instead of the public it is meant to protect. When high ranking officials go directly from the NHTSA to jobs in the auto industry, it raises questions about who those officials were working for all along.
To be effective, the NHTSA must have the power to truly punish bad actors. Right now, the only way auto companies are held accountable is by lawsuits brought by consumers who were injured or the families of people who were killed by defective cars and car parts. Rosekind suggested that more power for the NHTSA would help hold automakers accountable for unsafe vehicles and for violations of safety laws.
Source: Automotive News, “NHTSA nominee Rosekind pledges tougher stance, ‘common sense’,” by Ryan Beene, 4 December 2014