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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration purports to hold the safety of American motorists in high esteem, but according to a recent investigation reported by the Boston Globe, the federal agency is slow to identify safety problems and tentative to take action. This is not a new development. As we noted in April, NHTSA bosses knew about the faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles that could cause engines to turn off, disabling air bags with deadly results. The faulty switches led to at least 13 deaths and more than 2.6 million recalled vehicles. The NHTSA had an investigation all teed up but “deep-sixed it,” which an independent investigator found troubling. The most likely explanation is that the federal safety bosses wanted to go easy on General Motors, also known as Government Motors, which the federal government had bailed out to the tune of some $50 billion.
Now it turns out that the NHTSA spends about as much money to rate new automobiles as it does investigating manufacturing defects. Taxpayers will note the abundance of independent review media, such as Consumer Reports. There is no need for the NHTSA to review cars, but it is typical of a federal agency to perform poorly on its actual job and waste money on other tasks better handled by independent, non-governmental groups.
We should also recall that a related agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, is mounting a snoop surge by pushing for installation of “black box” data recorders in cars and trucks. These function only after the fact of any accident, so their safety value may well be doubted. But the black boxes do help the government keep tabs on drivers. This comes at a time when government irresponsibility and unaccountability have plunged to an all-time low. Job one for federal bureaucrats is protecting their jobs, salaries, and budgets. Taxpayers aren’t even number two. By any standard, the system is unsafe at any speed.