Consumer activist Ralph Nader says that lax federal regulation of an ever-more complex auto industry is partly to blame for Toyota’s present crisis. “The spotlight on sudden-acceleration defects of Toyota vehicles has opened a window on lax enforcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the serious problems caused by deregulation over the last several decades. As the fatality and injury toll climbs — and Toyota sales plummet — it’s time to ask why the sleepy Washington safety sentinels at the Department of Transportation aren’t doing the job the people expect of them. Part of the problem is the deregulatory mania that has gripped Washington since the Ronald Reagan years. Since the Reagan administration, NHTSA has been severely cut back. Its budget has been nearly halved (when adjusted for inflation), which has left it with a far smaller technical staff. Former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook has testified to the need for an immediate budget increase of $100 million just to assure that NHTSA has the technical personnel and capability to meet its obligations in the areas of safety standards, defect recall, enforcement and research.”
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